Beartown by Fredrik Backman

A fiction pick by Jean-Louis

Atria Books, 2017

Fredrik Backman has become a very popular author since he showed up on North American bookshelves. His book, A Man Called Ove, remains one the most requested books of the last few  year and his latest, Beartown, is sure to follow close behind. What Backman does so well is place the reader in a setting that is very familiar, one that the reader can relate to, and then he asks some uncomfortable questions.

In Beartown, we are in a somewhat remote Swedish bush town and we are in a proudly proclaimed “hockey town.” For a Canadian audience, this setting is very easy to understand. Likely you will recognize this setting and many, if not all, of its characters. We are near the end of the season for the local junior team and for the first time in a long while, they are a competitive team. All the right circumstances have aligned–the make-up of the team is right, the coaching has brought along a whole team, the sponsors and the community are so close to a win that they can taste it. This social pressure cooker is filled with teen hockey players on the cusp of becoming men, coaches and team officials pushing futures and exorcising past demons, outsiders crossing over to “insider” status through the magic of hockey, and families caught in the maelstrom of human frailties. Like a great hockey game, this novel moves from offense to defense, it zigs and zags, and it is hard to pin down.

Backman explores what it means to be in a small town with an underdog feel to it, what it means to be a part of a pack (of fans, of classmates, of a team), and where the line is between loyalty, duty, and decency. Backman asks tough questions and gets you thinking–check out his books today.

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