The Book Buzz: Beartown by Fredrik Backmann

Backman’s book is this week’s pick for book of the week.

As we get closer to the much anticipated fall break, some students are getting wound up worrying for midterms. What better way to unwind and unplug during the break than by picking up a new book?

Written by Swedish author Fredrik Backman, “Beartown” offers a unique look into a snowy little forest town that the rest of the world couldn't care less about. Beartown is home to some of the toughest people around, who have persevered through years of hardships and economic decline. The only thing that willed the residents of the town to step out into the freezing weather every day and trudge onwards was hockey. Hockey was simple and fair, as they believed, while life wasn’t. At the center of life in Beartown is the hockey club. The motto, “Culture, Values and Community,” is inscribed all over the town. Though, as the events in the book would have it, that motto would become more of a stain than a salute, for culture is the real culprit in this case.

“For me, culture is as much about what we encourage as what we actually permit,” Sune, the head coach of the Beartown Hockey A-Team, says. “Most people don’t do what we tell them to. They do what we let them get away with.” 

The novel begins with this beaten, broken town after an unforgettable act ends with a boy on his knees in the snow and a gun to his head. However, all of this is revealed on the first page. Backman lays out everything before his audience and is still able to not only draw the reader in, but completely envelope them in the world he creates. His control over language is truly astounding, as he utilizes every literary device in the book to pull cheers, fears and tears out of the reader.

“Beartown” will make one question how willingly people are ready to look the other way when presented with a clear injustice because it is easier for them to choose ignorance. “Beartown”demonstrates how those whom we put all our trust in are destined to fall. It reveals all of the pain and suffering felt by each individual citizen of Beartown, and how the glorification of a sport and socioeconomic divide can blind a whole town from the truth, the very thing for which they would rather lose their humanity than see. It will disgust you as Backman reveals how the lies we tell ourselves about exceptionalism can make us backwards as a society.

I do not want to say any more, as I don’t want to spoil this book for anyone who is considering reading it. I cannot fully express how highly I recommend reading “Beartown” or any of Backman’s work. His writing style simply stands apart in the way he is able to paint a picture and take the reader on a journey.

So, as midterms rear their ugly heads around the corner, I encourage you to finish strong. After closing that lovely mathematics textbook, be sure to relax and maybe open Beartown instead. Step out of your routine so that you can step into Backman’s world.