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Publisher's Summary

The number-one New York Times best-selling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream - and the price required to make it come true.

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 semifinals, 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 semifinal 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.

©2017 Fredrik Backman (P)2017 S&S Audio

Critic Reviews

" Beartown is, at its heart, a hockey story. However, with author Backman telling that story and Marin Ireland performing it, this audiobook transcends the cliché of 'the big game' and becomes a multifaceted study of humanity, integrity, and loyalty. Ireland narrates in a remarkably adaptable way; her chameleon voice is devoted to developing character, and she's so effective that she makes the story come to the fore... Ireland nimbly skates her own way through a novel that is gorgeously written, meticulously plotted, and nearly perfectly performed. This one is not to be missed." ( AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    5,358
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    1,762
  • 3 Stars
    518
  • 2 Stars
    136
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Performance

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    5,371
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    380
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    97
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Story

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    100
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A Barrel To The Head, A Slug To The Gut--

This is the story of one young person putting the barrel of a shotgun to the head of another young person. It's the story of how big dreams die hard and little, more tender dreams die even harder. This is not your usual Fredrik Backman book; it has none of the fanciful tenderness, the sentimentality. It's a hard-hitting look at what a town, what its people, what its children will do when the worst happens and you realize you are alone, just you and your ability to look your children in the face saying, "I couldn't protect you", you and your ability to look in the mirror saying, "What does it mean to be human?"
I expected more of a "Miracle on Ice" component but I was sorely wrong and quite happy about it. Backman takes the love of parents, friends, siblings and piles it on; takes the tension and ratchets it up, notch by painful notch until you have nothing to do but look inside yourself and wonder if you can stand any more pain, any more human frailty, any more doubt when there are so many, many shades of gray.
Marin Ireland has a brittle tone, and I wondered why a male narrator wasn't gotten until I realized that the many female characters wouldn't have been done justice to. Ireland gets it right, plus she does male characters quite well. What's more: She doesn't stilt on the passion, and this is a passionate story.
If you're ready for a journey into the heart, mind, soul of a teenager get ready and dive in. If you're ready for a slap in the face, the realization that you'll do anything, anything for your children but be able to keep them safe, tip your toes in and go gently, inhaling as much as possible.
Backman's prose, his story, his style are breathtaking.

100 of 108 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Miserable

That's how I feel after enduring this book. I have read three other titles by this author and loved them. This book was very different. Oh yes, the writing was excellent, of course, but the story was painful all the way through.

From the very beginning the reader is set up for a terrible incident to occur. I felt nervous in anticipation. This is not a fun read. It is no fun to wait for something awful to happen. It was bad enough to feel that from the time the story begins, but as the characters are developed and the reader's fondness of them grows, it becomes worse and worse.

I wish I had not read this. I wish I had not put myself through this. I wish I had stopped early on when the story began and I did not feel interested, but continued because I was curious.

This may turn out to be an important book. This may become a movie. This may be studied in sociology or psychology or philosophy classes. But it had me nervous all the way through, and, even with its excellent writing, I wish I had not forced myself to endure it. The way it ended left me without the details I felt I deserved after all that.

I'll remember this story, these characters and their culture. It will, without a doubt, linger for a time. But I wish I had not gone down this path at all. Now I just feel miserable.

93 of 104 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Too long. Too many platitudes.

I absolutely loved A Man Called Ove. So I read Brit-Marie Was Here and loved that, too. So I selected Beartown next. This book is NOT in the same league as the other two. Where the first two were whimsical, Beartown is dark and depressing. It is also endless: it goes on and on and on, one brief section after another, one platitude after another (half of which don't make sense). I forced myself to listen to the end just so that I could say I had finished it, but not liking it much.
The narrator, however, was stupendous! She did very credible voices for teen girls, young and old men, mothers, and everyone in between. Her energy was great. She saved what little was left of the book.

17 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Backman Can Write Any Point of View!

I've read most of Backman's books, and this author is amazingly talented. When I read "A Man Called Ove," I thought, this guy must know my daughters and their grandfathers, because the characters' interactions are spot on. When I read, "Britt-Marie Was Here," I thought, he must know an older woman who felt discarded, because she seems so real. In "My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry," I assumed he must have lived in an apartment building where his neighbors represented, all walks of life, because each character was alive and unique. Now, in "Beartown," I jokingly conclude that he is in fact a pseudonym for what must be a team of authors, each specializing in writing a certain point of view, because his representation of the human teenager was very accurate.

"Beartown" is about so many things: parenthood, navigating being a teen, the desperation that can engulf a small town into pack mentality. It touches on retirement and how it effects a sense of purpose. We see immeasurable loss, beating the odds, perseverance, abuse, revenge, forgiveness...and so much more.

From the above paragraph, you may think those are too many subjects to tackle in one book, but Backman makes it flow naturally and realistically.

At times, I felt that he was bordering on over description in regards to each character's inner thoughts, but as I read on, I came to appreciate the time he took to bring the reader into the characters' heads. Some may feel that the following is a spoiler, but I want to explain what I mean with an example, therefore, I'll preface the next section.

*Possibly could be considered a spoiler*

At one point, some boys throw a rock with an expletive written on it through a window. The mother/wife gets in her car and scares the boys in a way that could be perceived as unstable. But the reader has been inside her head. We've seen what she's been through. She's endured unimaginable loss. Outwardly, she seems abrasive and uncompromising, but the reader knows how much she has sacrificed for those she loves. You feel her desperation and helplessness and anger. Despite knowing how wrong it would have been, had she actually caused permanent damage, I found myself cheering her on; then, when she came to her senses, so did I. She wasn't insane; she had a temporary moment of insanity. Backman took a lot of time to get us inside her mind, and it allows the reader to understand her irrational behavior.

*End of possible spoiler*

What I like best about the book is the multiple layers given to each character. We see tough guys in moments of sensitivity. We see sensitive guys finding their strengths. It is easy to dismiss a character as universally shallow, until we see the character in a different environment and we watch them bloom into someone we'd like to know. Heroes make selfish/life altering choices and bullies evolve into better people.

I especially like the ending, because it felt so complete that I actually exhaled. This is a great book for discussion, and I'm encouraging my teen daughters to read it. The narrator's performance was spectacular in the audio version. I highly recommend it!

29 of 34 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Bang . . . Bang . . . Bang

Bang – the impact of pucks and players slamming into the boards. Bang - the collision of opposing visions for a town and its beloved hockey team. Bang – conflicting emotions of children trying to fit in with the group while remaining distinctly individual. Bang – the devastating realization that parents just cannot protect their children from forces they can neither foresee nor control. Bang – Running headlong into the desperation and hypocrisy that has formed the character of an entire community, and how it must come to grips with their values when their world explodes because of one senseless act. Bang - the sound of guns in the forest.

A bright unforgiving light is turned on the worship of sports heroes, what it does to the young athletes, what it does to a community that places inhuman burdens on young shoulders to succeed for the glory of the town, and how those who don’t drink the kool-aid are marginalized, even dehumanized. This is a more sobering story than his previous novels, having little of the usual quirky humor to lighten the tone. The opening lines hit hard, setting an expectation of coming trouble, but then eases into a leisurely introduction to a vast cast of characters who will drive the story forward. The sentinel event doesn’t occur until half way through the book, so patience is required in spite of the building tension. Pay attention to the details of who these people are. It informs their reactions and behavior later on. But don’t cling to your early judgements. Once again Fredrik Backman has proved to have an astounding insight into human nature. His characters are realistically complex and he handles all of them – even the worst of them – with honesty and compassion. There are no easy answers when survival is on the line, and especially when parents are fighting for their children. This is not a depressing tale, but an enlightening one and one with the potential to spark conversation and self assessment.

The reading by Marin Ireland is perfect for all ages, genders and character. Another home run for this author.

32 of 38 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

I liked this better than Ove!

I had enjoyed Backman's "A Man Called Ove." I did not like Britt-Marie was here, but took a chance on Beartown partly because of the subject (hockey) and partly on a strong rec from a friend. Well, I'm glad I did! This novel eventually drew me into its world in a way that rarely happens.This takes place in a rural part of a Scandinavia. They never specify the country, and it is written so that one can easily see it as occurring in rural Canada, or maybe Minnesota or North Dakota. Until "kroner" was mentioned, I was thinking this could be in North America. I guess it shows how similar a hockey culture can be in different countries.The first half of this book focuses on the game of hockey (a great game) and the hockey/jock culture (not a good thing) in this hockey crazy town. The "boys will be boys" mentality and star idolization result in an act of violence that rips this community apart. I loved this novel, in spite of its flaws. The biggest flaw was the fact that little happened over the first half of the book, The fact that I love hockey kept me interested enough. After initial confusion with so many characters, I finally got to know them all, and care about the people and this small town. An underdog junior team is vying for a national championship when a violent act turns things upside down. Heroism and bad behavior by adults and kids fill this fascinating novel. While maybe not for everyone, I really enjoyed this novel. I liked it even more than Ove! The narrator is great, and boosted this 4.5 star book up to a 5 star experience for me.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

I wanted to love it....

I love all of Fredrick Backman's previous books but this one seriousy missed the mark for me. I finished it purely out of loyalty to the author but struggled to do so. The story was sliced up and told in a jumbled mess and in weird summaries, almost like a string of short stories shuffled into one. Definitely no where near Ove.

32 of 40 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Beautifully written; perfectly narrated.

I see that A Man Called Ove has become a large hit. I haven't read it, but I sure will now, having just finished Beartown. The book is set in a tiny town in rural Sweden, nestled in a forest, where the winters are brutal, but ice hockey is the town's true love, and it makes the townspeople look forward eagerly to winter. A nearby town is called Hed, and a large forest lies between the two. The characters are beautifully drawn. Most of them are high school kids who play on the Beartown Bears, a junior team. It takes a long while for Mr. Backman to set up the crucial event of the book, but I felt completely comfortable listening to the setup, as it is full of wisdom, wit and wonderful insights into the people, their families and the tensions/friendships/political connections among all of these. The hockey team is at the forefront of the drama, and the team has one player who is truly great. His name is Kevin, and he is so far above the other boys that he seems almost assured of getting drafted into the National Hockey League. Part of his advantage, though, is his friend Benji, who is his right-hand man on the ice, who protects him from guys on the opposing teams who would love to slash him to bits. In one game earlier in his career, Kevin's team won 13-0, and Kevin was quite disappointed in himself when one of his teammates scored one of the thirteen goals. Not very sporting, but superstars are sometimes not gracious or generous with their teammates.
We get to know a lot about the town, about the structure and organization of the team, its president, general manager and coach, and the parents of the players, who get truly, viscerally excited about every game their boys play. An interesting boy on the team is Amat, who lives on the poor side of town. Amat is small and not physically imposing, but he is the fastest skater in the area, and an important factor in the team's success and in the development of the novel.
I will try not to say too much about the traumatic event in specific, as I have no desire to spoil your enjoyment. However, something extremely evil occurs about two thirds of the way through the book, and the remainder of the book revolves around this event. It brings up the most profound feelings and conflicts among almost all the residents of the town. The event fits in quite well with the headlines of today, so the book feels current and important in that way. Once it happens, the structure of the hockey team and its organization is viciously threatened. Backman does a terrific job of examining the prejudices that people have about the gender wars (I know that I am being vague here, but I really do not want to spoil your experience of the book), their attachment to their neighbors and the town itself, the power structure, who's got the money, etc. I felt personally involved in this story, mostly I believe because the people are so exquisitely brought to life that they feel very real. We get to know a few of the players on the team very well, as well as their coach, David, and several of the parents in particular. I was so impressed with both the author and the narrator, who is truly a gifted woman, that I will look for and read a whole lot of their work. I had never heard of either of these people before, but I sure am glad that I know of their work. I recommend this book quite strongly. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

It's a rare case of 4 winners in a row

Reading 4 books by the same author and finding them all a great read is something that doesn't happen very often to me. Backman is one of the few exceptions.
This one has everything, an interesting profoundly human story, some humor and drama at the same time.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

EXTRAORDINARY IN SO MANY WAYS

I read this book because I loved Backman's A Man Called Ove and ice hockey happens to be my favorite sport. So, while the book is set against the world of ice hockey, it is a far cry from A Man Called Ove. But, I loved it all the same.

Backman takes his time setting up the world of hockey in this tiny town set in a forest. He introduces us to each of the key characters and explains in subtle ways why they are important to his story. I admit to being somewhat confused by this -- when will the sport of hockey and all its excitement finally come to the forefront of the story?

And then, midway through, the book does a complete shift and becomes a different story altogether. By this time, you're familiar with all the characters and how they fit into the overall puzzle and as you wend your way to the story's completion, you are pulling for all the right characters to succeed...because they did the right thing under very arduous circumstances.

This is not a story of hockey...it is a story of how hockey can improve, change or destroy lives. It is a story of how hockey teaches you to be strong, to fight back, to win (or lose) with dignity -- or not. It is a story of how one traumatic event in the lives of two teenagers can affect everyone in a small hockey town.

This book is engaging, from beginning to end. I was sorry to see it end.

While I enjoyed the narration and found it easy to understand, I sometimes didn't feel like the narration and the source material were a perfect match.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful