book review: beartown


Disclosure: This book content takes a hard look at sexual violence and includes (a LOT of) profanity.

It’s official: Fredrich Backman is my new favorite author. At least, of this moment. I would have previously answered that question with great stress and probably landed on JK Rowling. But honestly, she’s my favorite storyteller. I love her world. But Backman’s an author. And by that, I mean the whole package: sentence structure to emotional complexity to character development and exceptional storytelling. I can’t believe I’m reading his work translated (he’s Swedish)—so to quote Kirk’s buddy, “You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.”

Beartown. Likely wouldn’t have picked it up except for how much I adored A Man Called Ove. I LOVE a good sports movie, but I’m not much for a sports book. Good thing this story about ice hockey players and ice hockey coaches and ice hockey moms from an ice hockey team in an ice hockey rink with an ice hockey team manager is about 10,000 things besides ice hockey.

It’s about families and parenthood and motherhood and marriage and best friends and manhood and dads who leave and moms who leave and rape and raising dogs and accusations and trust and music and little brothers and big sisters and working parents and balancing a career and firearm safety and poverty and bullying and… I’m barely through recapping chapter 1.

This book is an emotionally captivating, draining experience while also a hugely rewarding, fulfilling experience. About 10 pages from the end, I though, “There’s no way he can save this. There is no ending here that doesn’t leave me utterly broken.” And then BOOM this guy blows my mind. How he turned it around astounds me. It’s not even like a big twist; it’s the way he can take human emotions and devastation that burns your soul and weave it into something akin to relief. You breathe a sigh as you close the book and hug it to your chest for a while, thankful for being awakened to that kind of possibility.

I know I’m gushing, but it is honestly THAT GOOD. Super difficult topics, though, so fair warning, it’s not like a happy book that you’ll smile through. You’ll laugh SO HARD OUT LOUD every few minutes (because this man is a dialogue genius), but between that you’ll be biting your lip until it bleeds and crying and possibly swearing and punching pillows.

Apparently, there’s a sequel, so trust me, I am all. over. that. as soon as I can be, but for now, I’ve started another of his books with the intriguing title of My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry.

I cannot possibly rate this book high enough. If I did ratings, I’d have to pull a WeRateDogs and give it a 12/10.