Beartown by Fredrik Backman (2017)

download-2The New York Times review calls this book “a different kind of sports book,” and it later adds that “hockey novels have been in short supply.” But Backman, bestselling author of A Man called Ove, has written a hockey story that is so powerful and so descriptive, I feel like I kind of understand hockey. Or at least its culture that makes football pale by comparison. Tiny, Swedish Beartown lives and dies hockey, but as the economy shrinks and jobs have melted away, everyone is banking on hockey to save it.  If the Junior league wins its championship, sponsors may build a new arena, school, and program. And in this town where everyone knows everyone, and most of the adult males played hockey for as long as they could, that’s the dream of all dreams. Thus, no one can think clearly when tragedy and trauma invade the high of winning. Those who cheered together turn on each other, and the town struggles to support the victim instead of the villain. But the villain was built through hockey culture—and that’s a bit too much for most folks to face–so no wonder they defend him. This is a powerful story with excellent writing and compelling characters. They may live in a simple town, but they are as complex as all humans are. Through his characters, Backman offers such insights about human behavior that I often had to pause and ponder before turning the page.

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