I love all of the books by Swedish-author Fredrik Backman, and this one, the third in the Beartown trilogy, is absolutely no exception. (You can see my book snap reviews of the two others in the trilogy: Bear Town and Us Against You in these links.) HBO has also produced a TV series called Beartown based on the novel.
Trigger warning: there are themes of sexual violence that run throughout the trilogy.
Beartown is a tiny town in the woods where hockey reigns supreme. It is the focal point of the rivalry with the neighboring town of Hed and the reason that people with everything in common just can’t get along.
Benji and Kevin were best friends and teammates, but when Kevin rapes Maya Andersson, the Beartown Hockey General Manager’s daughter, it is too much for both Maya and Benji to bear. After two years away, we take up their stories upon their return home.
A terrible storm tears through the forest and puts the residents of Hed and Beartown together in a series of events that will see them test the price of their loyalties, examine their prejudices, and rethink what it all means.
“We will be stuck in the nightmare forever. We are a people who tell stories, who try to use stories to put what we have experienced into some sort of context, to explain what we have been fighting about in the hope that it will excuse what we have done. But stories reveal both the very best of us and the very worst, and can one ever outweigh the other? Are our triumphs greater than our mistakes? What are we responsible for? What are we guilty of? Can we look ourselves in the mirror tomorrow? Can we look each other in the eye?”
Join Fredrik Backman in Beartown. Because truly, it is the same everywhere: almost everyone loves too much, hates too easily, and forgives too little. “But most people want the same: to live in peace, to let your heart beat a little more slowly when night comes, to earn a bit of money to support the ones you love.”
Backman weaves beautiful stories. Human stories. Beautiful human stories that are insightful, and empathetic, and honest, and ugly, and brave.
Anxious People is a story about a robbery. A botched robbery. Or, moreover a love story. No, a hostage taking. Anyway, doesn’t matter how they all got there. Eight odd strangers all show up at the New Year’s eve showing of an apartment in Sweden (but most definitely not in Stockholm)– and become unwitting confidantes, counsellors, and chums.
Here’s the passage I shared with my students today:
She could see winter making itself comfortable across the town. She liked the silence of this time of year, but had never appreciated its smugness. When the snow arrives autumn has already done all the work, taking care of all the leaves and carefully sweeping summer away from people’s memories. All winter had to do was roll in with a bit of freezing weather and take all the credit, like a man who has spent twenty minutes next to a barbeque but has never served a full meal in his life.
(Backman, p. 230-1)
When I got to the end, I wanted to start all over again.
New this September to book stores, on your bookshelf or to be read pile next!
Spent some more time in Fredrik Backman’s little hockey town in the forest. So many stories and thoughtful messages about family, friendship, community and telling the truth.
Snappy writing that sticks:
“The love a parent feels for a child is strange. There is a starting point to our love for everyone else, but not this person. This one we have always loved, we loved them before they even existed. No matter how well prepared they are, all moms and dads experience a moment of total shock, when the tidal wave of feelings first washes over them, knocking them off their feet.”
“For me, culture is as much about what we encourage as what we actually permit.”
David asked what he meant by that, and Sune replied: “That most people don’t do what we tell them to. They do what we let them get away with.”