Published by Atria Books on April 25th 2017
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“You never want to get away from home as much as you do when your’re fifteen years old.”
Ain’t that the truth?
“You can’t live in this town, Maya, you can only survive it.”
You are preaching to the choir here. Small towns, man. I grew up in a small town. You either know everybody or you are related to them. I could not get away fast enough. People in small towns have each others backs – until that moment when they don’t. People like to choose a side. What if you chose the wrong side?
Beartown is a hockey town. Seriously, who does not love a hockey town? Showing my bias – I love hockey. Beartown residents love the game, they love their players, they love to win. They take great pride in their hockey achievements. The small town hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals and guess what????? They might just win!!!! The town’s pride rests on the shoulders of the teenage players. Most are hungry to win. Most have dreamed (and trained) of this moment for as long as they can remember. But is carrying the towns hopes and dreams on their shoulders too much for this group or will they rally to the challenge? Are the town and their parents putting too much pressure on them?
“Never again do you find friends like the one’s you have when you are fifteen years old.”
Peter is the General Manager of the Beartown Hockey team and the Maya’s father. A former player himself he wants his team to win and then a devestating act changes him and his family forever. Maya and Ana are close friends. Ana spends most nights at Maya’s home as her home life is uncomfortable and strained. Both rely on each other for emotional support and friendship. Their friendship is strong and can weather any storm.
And a storm is coming……..
After a night of celebrating a violent assault takes place. An assault that turns good hard working people into angry people out for blood – parents trying to save their hockey team. People take sides. They don’t seem to really care about facts, or the truth, they believe what the want to believe. Once they have that belief, it is hard to change their mind. Who do you believe? The 15 year old girl with bruises? or the Confident Hockey player who the town has placed all of their hopes and dreams upon.
“Words are not small things.”
They are HUGE things. People use their words to hurt in this book i.e. bullying and blaming the victim. There is also a group mentality among the family members of the players. Other characters are also the victims of harsh words via bullying.
Before I go any further let me just make one thing clear – I LOVED this book. I will make a stand and say I believe it is Backman’s best. It is powerful and poetic at the same time. His writing is beautiful and poignant. I’m mean seriously take this line: “The room is silent enough to hear when his heart breaks.” I’m mean really…his words are beautiful and haunting. Backman eloquently gives the reader a glimpse into the inhabitants of a small town’s lives. There are a lot of characters in this book and yet the amount of characters never seems overwhelming. There are characters who are driven to practice day in and day out because they do not lose (Kevin), characters (Benji) who lost a parent to suicide and raised by his sisters, a man (Peter)who is a father and General Manager of the Hockey team whose daughter is the victim, a player (Amat)who has been raised by a single Mother and is the fastest and youngest on the team, a character (Maya)who is a 15 year old who loves her guitar and plays day and night. There are so many characters in this book and yet each has an interesting back story. Each contributes to the story, each causes us to think and feel.
There is sadness in this book and there is beauty. There is love, friendship, pain, lies, denial and a violent assault. There are so many themes in this book and I could write half the night – but I wont. Sometimes simplicity is best. So simply put, this book was AMAZING!!!!!
For those who do not like sports or hockey *GASP* please note: This is a book about Hockey and yet is not about hockey. It is a book about human nature, relationships, the good and the bad in people, wanting to fit in, wanting to be better, wanting to belong, wanting to win, and wanting to be accepted.
If you have not read this book and you love to read – READ THIS BOOK!! Because this book is so many things but the main thing is AMAZING.
Can I just say that I think Backman is just getting warmed up. I think he is going to continue to dazzle us with his brilliant novels for years to come. Mark my words – he is only going to get better as he has already gotten better. I will say it here, I will say it now, this brilliant Swedish man has a gift. I will read every single word, savor them and be a very happy reader!
I HIGHLY Recommend this book.