I read Beartown after another of Fredrik Backman’s books, Anxious People.
Thinking about how some authors are (sometimes comfortingly) one-note, I went into Beartown thinking it would be similar in tone. Quirky characters with unseen depths, surprise reveals, meditative insights into humanity, heartwarming moments.
But Anxious People is such a departure from Beartown that it seems almost as if it’s written by a whole different author. And holy crap, Beartown threw me in the best and worst of ways.
I did myself a favor by not reading summaries ahead of time and I would suggest you do the same, if possible. Backman begins the book by inviting us into the families that make up a small hockey town. We get to know and care about them intimately. Know that makes these characters tick.
And then it all gets blown apart and he rips the reader’s heart out.
I won’t say more. I know it makes this review incomplete, but I want you to experience it the way I got to. Though I should probably mention: trigger warning for (highlight to read) rape.
Backman is a surprising author. I’ve read three of his books now and plan to keep going. One thing he excels at is how the reader feels completely enmeshed in the inner workings of his characters.
And the characters are not archetypes. They are all at once strong, weak, flawed, funny, serious, and each carrying a truckload of past experience and gained insight (sometimes ill-begotten) that goes into every mannerism. Beartown is a very good book. I’m both looking forward to and dreading reading its sequel, Us Against You. What if it doesn’t live up to the love I felt for this book?
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