Bear Town by Fredrik Backman

Posted July 25, 2020 by elzaread in Book Review / 0 Comments

Title: Bear Town

Author: Fredrik Backman
Published: 2016 (Simon and Schuster)
Pages: 432
Format: Paperback
Recommend to: If you like ice hockey, small town politics, the difference between right and wrong and good and evil – read this. 
Synopsis: People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.
Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.
Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.
I’m from a small coastal town in South Africa where ice isn’t all that big on our radars. Yes, we have an ice rink a couple of miles away, but as far as I know, it’s only for recreational purposes. 
Have I ever been on the ice? No.
Do I know anything about ice hokey? No.
Is ice hockey big in South Africa? Do we even have a national team?
Is Rugby big in South Africa? Hell yes.
Do I know anything about the politics on and off the field? Hell yes.
Do I know anything about small town politics? Hell yes.
And there’s the basis of this book. Backman could have taken any national sport, change a few game plans and a setting or two, but the politics would have remained the same. Cause that’s how the world works. No matter where or in which little town you currently find yourself stuck in. 
“A town where people believe in difficult questions and simple answers.”
This is a story about us. Those of us who form part of a community. And if you are reading this review, you are also part of a community. Maybe it’s a bit nicer than living in Bear Town, but I can promise you, when one of our “own” does something worth mentioning, we are also forced to choose sides. And that’s what makes this book brilliant. Backman jumps from character to character, household to household, ice rink to office in such a talented way that even you, as the reader, struggle to make that distinction between wright and wrong or good and evil. 
Believe it or not, but this is my first novel by Fredrik Backman. It won’t be my last. Yes, it did take me couple of pages to get into his writing style and his descriptive and rather humorous character sketches, made me wonder about the tone of the book. “Lifa is less talkative than a tree, Zacharias louder than a radio and Amat just appreciates the company”. “Bobo is the biggest of them, as wide as a barn door and ugly enough to make rats move house.” (I can picture them all very clearly)
Life is nothing but a series of motions. Actions and reactions. Causes and effects. Choices and consequences. Bear Town is a book in motion. Even though so many of the characters feel stuck in town and can’t wait to get out of there. It’s also a book about passion and believe. What are you passionate about? What or who do you believe in? Backman leaves us with a number of morality questions. 
Read the book. Think about your own questions. Think about the bears in your own little town. Which side are you on?
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