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Beartown by Fredrik Backman @backmanland

Digital Reads Reviews is a blog-haven for book posts and reviews. This is a review of a literary fiction, Beartown.
I loved it

Publication Date: 2018

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People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

My Review

What was it all about

If I could read only one book forever, it would be this book. BEARTOWN. Every word written had shadowed nuances. Every line caused me to pause and think, when suddenly the meaning would explode into my brain. Every page compelled me to stop breathing, until my lungs demanded oxygen. 

There could be no bigger book than this for me. There could be no book that could inspire me or make me cry with my eyes and my heart. I dripped blood into my chest cavity as facts of life and what hockey meant to Beartown came through. 

It took an army to spread and believe a lie, but it took one single person to stand in front of that army and speak the truth. Then be the man that none of the others could ever become.

We become what we are told we are.

The Short Summary

Beartown by Fredrik Backman was all about a hockey game and how winning was all that mattered to them. Until it became all about good and evil. The people of the town didn’t know right from wrong, but when the truth came out, they could easily make the distinction between good and evil. But it came at a bigger price than what the town imagined. 

A town that wanted to win the hockey game against the neighboring one was the crux of the story, until a catastrophe at a party brought all their hopes crashing down. The main player was arrested, and the team had a hard time winning the game. 

Then came the accusations with most wanting to lynch the person making the accusation and a couple believing that person. The book was all about hockey. But in the end, you realize it was all about men and the way they behaved. 

A standalone, the book had two others following it. And never had I been happier to realize that I had bought all of them. 

She’s fifteen, above the age of consent, and he’s seventeen, but he’s still “the boy” in every conversation. She’s “the young woman”

The Hook

Trigger Warnings: rape, sexual abuse, accusations, disbelief from the town. 

The last two might not seem like trigger warnings, but when you read the book and realize how much the accusations and disbelief from the town cut you from the inside, you would want those to be included in the trigger warnings.

A soul died when you saw a fifteen-year-old person not being believed and being called names by the people of the town they grew up with. 

It was hockey ruling the book, but it was the men that cut it down to ribbons with their ways. Especially one of them and the loyalists who decided to bring others down. 

They will be scared to touch her, even the ones who believe her, because they don’t want to risk getting hit by shrapnel when she detonates.

Couldn’t even think of comparing this book with any other, as this story was far above anything I had ever read in my entire life. The ambiance and the truths spoken in the lines had me sighing and reflecting about on own life.

The words stringed together walked silently onto the pages, but they left huge craters in my heart with the power behind them. In short, the book simply blew me away. I knew this would happen while making my way through its pages, that I would lay devastated yet happy at the end of it. 

Everyone has a thousand wishes before a tragedy, but just one afterward.

The Characters

OMG. Each of the characters had an impact on me in the way the author led the story. You would think there were pages and pages about their characterization, but it was not true. There were words written about their actions and the effect of those in years to come. 

Humans were nothing but a sum total of their actions, and this book brought home that fact in a powerful way, leaving behind a twinkling of hope as the author went ahead and told me what would happen in ten years time. 

Each and every one of the characters held a special place in my heart. You had to read the book to understand this line. How could the one who had broken the faith be the one having a place in my heart? That was because it didn’t take one day for the person to reach that point, but a multitude of acts over the years to reach that place of privilege where they thought they were above the rest, just because they could play hockey. 

A magnificent job was done in etching the part each character would play, even those that hid in the dark, the Pack, or the alcoholic bartender who had more strength in the tiny finger of her hand than the rest of the town. 

The parents, the believers, the disbelievers, the friendships tested, those broken. The ones who stood up for the truth, the one who spoke up when the need welled up inside their being. They all transformed this book into the light that shone above the rest. 

Even after reading it, I didn’t think I could ever stop thinking about it, pondering about this town and the people who now stood strong to make a hockey club that stood up for the game and not about the players only. 

The disparity in sexes – as someone wondered why women would need to play hockey in Beartown – brought a raging fire into my heart. The need for such diversity and inclusion made my entire being vibrate at higher energy. You wouldn’t believe it if you had seen me. I was sitting still, but with every molecule of oxygen I inspired, every cell in my body shook with the intensity of my feelings. 

What did you think my answer would be if you asked if I cared for the characters or liked them? You bet I did. You couldn’t get better characterization than this book anywhere. Sure, many could find faults with some tiny thing or the other, but nobody could deny the book had something larger than life. Larger than anything you had ever read before. Hockey was just a medium to bring out the facts of life. And nobody could deny they were facts. 

What an uncomfortable, terrible source of shame it is for the world that the victim is so often the one left with the most empathy for others.

The Intricacies

The plot, in its barebones, was simple. A hockey game to be won. A catastrophe that occurred. Now, who would Beartown believe?

But there were layers within layers, hidden nuances, tears and smiles that had a different meaning than you could believe. Things that could make grown-ups cry and children grow up in a moment. Children consoling adults when the truth became too much to bear. Adults not wanting to see the truth. Some seeing further than the truth. Some just wanting to play hockey and nothing else. 

A book that made parents realize there was no safe place and that they couldn’t protect their kids all the time. A place where kids realized that sometimes you have to take action to become the human you ought to be. 

Every single word was a moment in this book, and each resonated in my being a hundred times over. The author brought home every fact by writing it straight. Even those that you would think you already knew and those that you had to know and understand and probably live through the characters. 

The ending left an abyss in my heart, but the author then went about wrapping it in a soothing balm by letting me feel the tendrils of hope as he showed me the strengths some of these characters would grow on to display. 

You had to read this book, experience every line in it. In your mind. In your heart. And deep in your soul. 

For the perpetrator, rape lasts just a matter of minutes. For the victim, it never stops.

The Setting

Beartown was nothing but a town that lived and breathed hockey and the author managed to keep that atmosphere shimmering without going overboard about it. 

Difficult questions, simple answers. What is a community?

It is the sum total of our choices.

The Pace

The story kept me hooked to it from the beginning to end. I had to take many breaks when my heart started racing, and at some moments, I needed to spend some time to expend the excess energy and allow my cells to calm down. 

Religion is something between you and other people; it’s full of interpretations and theories and opinions. But faith . . . that’s just between you and God.

The style of writing - The Prose

With so many quotes peppering this entire review, it would be easy to guess that every line touched my heart in a million of ways, and I wanted nothing but to read and re-read the lines until they were etched in me. 

The author’s voice was so silent that it became the loudest, the most compelling. wanting to take my all. Every speck of my attention was focused on the book as I turned one page after the other, savoring the words that came on each. 

It was so much later that I got to know that all the books of this author were translated works. Imagine how powerful it would have been if only I could read Swedish. 

You never have the sort of friends you have when you’re fifteen ever again. Even if you keep them for the rest of your life, it’s never the same as it was then

How it made me feel

My heart, which demanded retribution and was soaked in vengeance, could manage to calm down to agree the ending was perfect. Sometimes forgiveness was needed. All that was needed was to remind the other person how it felt to be scared of darkness. A lesson that would never lose its hold on the perpetrator for as long as the person lived. 

The repercussions of an act lived on for a long time, but I was so happy to see that sometimes one could find a way to make their way into this world. The one scene that stole my breath was how one look from a person, even after many years, made the perpetrator unable to look straight. 

Yes. The repercussions of seeing the mirror would live on forever, knowing they didn’t deserve a single moment of their lives on this earth. 

It’s always easier to lecture other people about morality when you’ve never had to answer for anything yourself

Do I recommend this book?



To find more interpretations of words that would resonate in my life too. 


The only way to stop being afraid of the darkness out there is to find a darkness inside yourself that’s bigger.

I bought the paperback version of the book from an online retail, and this is my journey down its pages, straight from the heart. STRICTLY HONEST and UNBIASED.

If you’ve loved the review, buy me a cuppa to perk me up.

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3 Responses

  1. I’ve read Beartown several years ago, and it is one of the best books I read, and I’m glad to see you liked it too. I did enjoy the layers to the story and the characters in Beartown.

  2. I remember when I read this book. It took me a long time to get into, but once things started falling into place, I was in. Such a great read. Nice review!

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