Beartown is a small town in the middle of nowhere, Sweden. A town that gets by on its gritty residents, determined not to let harsh winters or the decline of their home get them down. They’re tough. They live surrounded by forest and snow. They look after their own. They’re the Bears from Beartown.
It’s a hockey town. People live and die for this sport. Making it to the A Team and beyond can set you for life. Sponsors are eager to make back their investments and maybe that’s going to happen, but with the junior team this time. A bunch of teenagers who just might win the final, and bring home not just a trophy, but a new hockey rink, skating school, infrastructure…you name it. No pressure, kids.
And then, just before the final, a girl accuses one of the stars of the team of rape. The town is divided on how to respond, who they believe, or rather, who they choose to believe. Because this getting out could shut down that investment and leave Beartown stagnating for good. It’s her word against his right? And he’s a good kid from a good family and he would never do such a thing. She’s a liar. A line is drawn.
Backman weaves together, seemingly effortlessly, the many lives of this hockey obsessed town. There’s Peter, the general manager of the hockey club, and his wife and children; Kevin, the star of the team, along with his best friend, Benji; Ramona, pub owner still mourning the loss of her husband; Amat, a hockey star in the making given his first shot; and many others. It explores the politics that go into keeping the club and town afloat, and the motives of those who would rather turn away from a young girl in pain.
I haven’t read any Backman before but I will certainly be picking some up now, especially the sequel to this one which I think has either just come out or is about to. The writing is lovely and sucked me in completely and I would really like to write more about this book but Twin A is currently really unhappy about nap time so gotta go. But I’d recommend this one. A lot.