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Book review: Novel gives insight into human nature

Katie Davidson/For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Book review
Courtesy Photo

‘Beartown,’ by Fredrik Backman

I am a fan of Fredrik Backman’s writing, not blindly — as in, I’m not crazy about a couple of his books — but openly and realistically.

Initially, with “A Man Called Ove” and “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” I thought Backman had an extraordinary insight into the elderly and the inevitable process of growing older.



As it turns out, Backman also has profound insight into the human condition, in general. He subtly inserts these insights into each of his characters, and we are allowed to be more human because of him. With that in mind, saying that I’m a fan may be an understatement.

Beartown is a community that lives and breathes ice hockey. The town, the players, the coaches, the families — everyone who has anything to do with hockey — are the sport’s royal subjects.



But Beartown has a problem. Many fear the tiny community, situated deep in the woods, is nearing the end of its run. Owing to the town’s passion for hockey, coupled with the fact that the junior hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals and may actually have a shot at winning, others believe Beartown is headed for better days.

With the town’s hopes hanging on a squad of teenage boys, the looming semi-final match sets the stage for a violent act that will leave the community reeling.

Allow me to introduce some of the characters.

Peter and Kira are a fairly typical Beartown family. He is the coach of the junior team, and she is a lawyer who works a few towns away. The two seem never to think they’re doing enough for their two children, Maya and Leo, and their daughter’s best friend, Ana, though they do as much as they can.

The main hockey player, Kevin Erdaugh, comes from a family whose motto is, “Win at any cost,” a wealthy couple whose only son who has brought them neither happiness nor satisfaction; indeed, their lives seem to be filled with an unease, a dissatisfaction that goes beyond mere facade.

Kevin’s best friend is Benjamin Ovick, who, if not the strongest player on the team, is certainly the beating heart of it. He acts as Kevin’s conscience.

Both Maya — who shows wisdom far beyond her years — and her friend, Ana, emerge as standout characters. Others include Amat; his friend Zachary, the overweight and loyal friend to the town; and Ramona, who kind of saves the day.

All of the personalities, give or take a couple, are exceptional people, and all are highly interesting.

“Beartown” takes an incisive look at a small town and the people who live there, laying bare the secrets that theaten to destroy it and the courage that ultimately works to save it.

“Beartown” is an exceptional read I highly recommend.

This book is available at Bud Werner Memorial Library and Off the Beaten Path.

Katie Davidson bookseller at Off The Beaten Path.


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