Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Atria Books (to be release in the US on April 25, 2017).

*This is a review from an advanced reading e-copy from the publisher through Edelweiss.*

I’m in a bind.  For the first time I am undecided on how many stars to give a book on Goodreads*.  Does this deserve a 1 star? I have my reason for that.  5 stars? I also have my reason for that as well.  Compromise and give it 3 stars? That wouldn’t be very fair, I think.

Beartown is your classic Fredrik Backman book.  Then again, it is not.  It is like his other novels, but yet it is vastly different.    Beartown is an intensely darker novel, but still tinge with the humanity and humor that is distinctively Backman.  Like Britt-Marie Was Here it is about a small, economically depressed town in the middle of nowhere that hangs it hopes on a junior sports team.  Yet, unlike that novel, a crime happens that threatens to break the team and the town apart.

Backman’s greatest talent is character development.  In A Man Called Ove, we are introduced to Ove, a cranky old man who decides to end his life, but keeps getting interrupted.  Over the period of the book we learn how he became the way he was at the beginning of the book, and with a relationship with the neighbor, he recovers his heart, and a reason to live.  In My Grandma Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry we are introduced to a young girl named Elsa and her grandmother, two very strong and yet quirky females.  In Britt-Marie Was Here we are introduced to Britt-Marie, who is at first timid and rigid, who finds her own inner strength, after a potentially failed marriage, while reluctantly coaching a junior soccer team.

In Beartown the main character is the town: the sum of all the citizens creates the main character.  The hockey club’s GM, his family, the coaches, the players, the sponsors, the fans. How they react to the crime, who sides with who, how the town changes in both good and bad ways.

Backman recently posted on Facebook and his blog (in Swedish of course; thank God for Google Translate!) that there will be a sequel coming out in late August (in Swedish of course), titled roughly (Googley) translated as “We Are Against You.” We will see if/when the English translation will come out.  I hate the wait. Or maybe I’ll end up learning Swedish.

*In the end, I gave it 5 stars.  This is really a book that still continues to haunt me long after I finished it.