Review: Beartown


By Fredrik Backman
Washington Square Press, 9781501160776, February 2018, 432pp.

The Short of It:

A small town finds community in the sport of hockey but it’s more than a sport for most of the players and coaches.

The Rest of It:

There is a big match coming up for this small town hockey club and it’s literally all hands on deck and the club decides that their only option is winning. Just win. That is the instruction that the boys are given and that’s what they intend to do. The on-ice ribbing of weaker players and the forced acceptance of a younger player into their immediate circle causes quite a bit of friction. To add fuel to the fire, coaches are being moved around and managers are encouraged to retire no matter how many years they’ve been in the club.

As Backman pulls us in with compelling characters and colorful town folk, the behavior and actions of one player, their star player, puts a damper on the pre-game excitement when he commits a crime. His punishment could cost them the win. As the town is divided over what to do, tensions rise and suddenly the game doesn’t seem as important as it once was.

I have read Backman before but I wasn’t prepared the the darkness of this story. I was just skating along, enjoying the healthy competition of the boys and their excitement over the game but then wham, you turn a corner and it gets very serious, quickly.

I know people who have loved this book and cried buckets of tears while reading it but I didn’t even tear up. I was angry and irritated and felt that I wasn’t prepared for where the story went. I know that it’s part of a series and that the new book hits in October, I believe, but now I am not sure I want to read the others. Someone convince me.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

14 thoughts on “Review: Beartown”

  1. I haven’t heard about this book, so I think I would probably be as surprised by the turn as you were. But it would have to be engaging and well done for me to want to read the next book.

    1. The author is extremely popular. A Man Called Ove, Anxious People, etc. Beartown is an HBO series too. So many of my friends love this series but it was ok. Def didn’t love it.

  2. I didn’t care for this either and don’t plan to read the new one. I can’t even remember where this this story went now – only that is was about hockey. I do prefer his stand-alone novels.

  3. Wow I was not expecting your impression!
    I am on the “I will buy anything this man writes” so….I loved the first, loved the second. The second continues the story but there is a growth amongst some of the characters . I think you should give it a try. But, on the other hand, so many books out there to read!
    It is a fast read. I would say borrow it, give it 50 or so pages. Better to read it with it fresh in your mind

  4. I loved the first book but wasn’t a fan of the second one so gave up on it after a few chapters. I may try it again sometime. I’ve loved all of his other books and can’t wait for the next one.

  5. It’s been a while since I read this novel, but I remember enjoying it (I gave it 4.5/5) and, like you, realizing it is about so much more than hockey.

    1. I was counting on it being about more than hockey but I guess I didn’t expect it to be quite as dark as it was. After the shutdown and being isolated for so long my tolerance for such things isn’t great.

  6. Yeah I agree. I didn’t like where the story went and I thought it became heavy-handed and the voiceover narration in parts about what to think irked me, I’m not sure I’d read the sequel.

  7. I agree that this story was a bit dark, but I think with this storyline it is better if you read the series in order- you get to know the characters and the background. It gives the book a bit more perspective than reading it as a stand alone. I am happy to hear Backman has a new book coming out, I will definitely read it, have read all his others and enjoyed them all.

  8. I loved this book (gave it 5 stars), but understand how the darkness of the plot could leave one feeling disappointed. I haven’t read Us Against You, but I hear it’s a difficult read. I’ll probably get to it eventually.

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