by Fredrik Backman
Narrator: Marin Ireland
Length: 13 hours and 11 minutes
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate
Narration: 4 cups
From the New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here, comes a poignant, charming novel about a forgotten town fractured by scandal, and the amateur hockey team that might just change everything.
Winning a junior ice hockey championship might not mean a lot to the average person, but it means everything to the residents of Beartown, a community slowly being eaten alive by unemployment and the surrounding wilderness. A victory like this would draw national attention to the ailing town: it could attract government funding and an influx of talented athletes who would choose Beartown over the big nearby cities. A victory like this would certainly mean everything to Amat, a short, scrawny teenager who is treated like an outcast everywhere but on the ice; to Kevin, a star player just on the cusp of securing his golden future in the NHL; and to Peter, their dedicated coach whose own professional hockey career ended in tragedy.
At first, it seems like the team might have a shot at fulfilling the dreams of their entire town. But one night at a drunken celebration following a key win, something happens between Kevin and the coach’s daughter—and the next day everything seems to have changed. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected. With so much riding on the success of the team, the line between loyalty and betrayal becomes difficult to discern. At last, it falls to one young man to find the courage to speak the truth that it seems no one else wants to hear.
Fredrik Backman knows that we are forever shaped by the places we call home, and in this emotionally powerful, sweetly insightful story, he explores what can happen when we carry the heavy weight of other people's dreams on our shoulders.
I accepted BEARTOWN by Fredrik Backman for an audio review without even reading the blurb. Such is my love for this author. Last year I devoured A MAN CALLED OVE and then forced my hubby to watch the movie with subtitles. I still think about Ove daily. BEARTOWN is different and yet no less powerful.
Fredrik Backman takes us to a small rural town in Sweden known as Beartown. Hockey is the heart of this isolated town where winning is everything and parents pray their child will be picked up professionally. A place that when something dark happens involving the town’s star player their world divides. Powerful and poignant Backman weaved a tale that will take the reader through an array of emotions.
The tale that unfolds revolves around hockey, and parents devoted to seeing their child succeed and escape their dead-end town. Sponsors, town politics and the hopes and dreams of their economy all rest on their teams and coaches shoulders. Backman skillfully characterizes the small-town and bringing key characters to life.
I went into this blind, and at first, I wondered what direction this story would take. Surely it couldn’t be a whole book on hockey? If I had read the synopsis, I would have been on edge waiting for the “event, ” but in retrospect, I am glad I went in cold because said event and the fallout offered a compelling read. Backman took us to the darker side of ourselves with a subject matter and subsequent reactions that reflected a relevant and timeless issue. It exposed the pain the victim feels and the painful accusations that follow.
BEARTOWN allows us to get to known individuals both young and old within the town. From them emerge, villains, prejudice, and quiet heroes. Some struggle between what the outcome means to the town’s survival and others debate behind closed doors. Backman brilliantly captured all sides, exposing both the dark and the light of humanity.
Marin Ireland is a new to me narrator but she delivered a powerful interpretation of the tale and the characters. She captured emotions from tone to pacing offering the listener a delightful, captivating listen.
The synopsis states “… in this emotionally powerful, sweetly insightful story, Beckman explores what can happen when we carry the heavy weight of other people’s dreams on our shoulders.” and that statement nails the heart of BEARTOWN. Grab some truffles and maybe a glass of wine before beginning your journey to this small-town. It is a story that will stay with you long after it ends.
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