I loved Backman’s book, A Man Called Ove and was keen to read another of his and found Beartown to be very different.
It’s about a small town nestled in a forest somewhere in Sweden. The community is depressed and the only thing that brings the town together is ice-hockey. Hopes and dreams are pinned on the junior hockey team and in particular its seventeen-year-old star, Kevin. The burden of hope rests with the team and their General Manager, when the team has the chance to win the national championship. An act of violence by a boy to a young girl tears the town and the team apart. Is she telling the truth or is it a conspiracy to prevent the team from winning?
Let me say at the outset that this is a long book with many characters. We are introduced to many of them and are witness to each of their hopes, dreams, weaknesses and strengths. The town itself is set in a snow covered wilderness and even though it’s summer here, I shivered and not always from the images of ice and snow.
I’m not much for following sport although living in a football loving city, I regularly witness the fanaticism, zealotry and love for a team of men who often have no other talent than play sport. And this is what this book shows us. But it also shows us that sports players are not God, they are mere humans who get things wrong and sometimes do the wrong thing.
This story also shows us what happens when money and sport mix and when it can be a lethal combination blinding everyone to accept a toxic culture for the greater good of winning. It also tells us about community; of the rich and powerful who don’t hesitate to use their power for what they want regardless of who they may hurt; about the brave and the cowards and the honest and the cheats.
There are many facets to this book and it comes with a warning. It takes a long time to get there. The first three-quarters gives us a multitude of characters in the town and in the team. There is a lot explained about the sport of hockey, as there should be. But for me it got a bit too much and I almost gave up on several occasions, and at times, I admit it, I did skip some bits (sigh).
But if you persist, you’ll be rewarded with a story about right and wrong which will stay with you for a long time after.
Pic from Goodreads