What can I say? Fredrik Backman, you've done it again. I am speechless and shocked and in awe etc etc.
I had the time of my life reading Beartown: a chilly, honest examination of a small, poor town whose future rests on the shoulders of the local teenage hockey team.
Unlike Backman's previous works, which focus on one (sometimes two, but usually) one character, Beartown features a large cast. I was very thrown off by this at first, as I'd become used to Backman's style; he really changes it up here. It took fifty or so pages for me to get a handle on all the characters, but once I did I really enjoyed the ride. All these people are endlessly fascinating to read about--they harbor grudges and secrets and hopes; Backman writes about the powerful, underdogs, and everyone in between with precision and raw skill. Topics such as homosexuality, the alluring power of groupthink, small town politics, rape culture, and parenthood are handled with surprising ease and dignity. Backman is a master of misdirection: he leads his readers in one direction, only to reveal it's all a fake out and, instead, takes them to a much more fulfilling place. Sorry, fanboying here. I just really love this author, okay?
Beartown is a fabulous novel. I couldn't find anything to complain about if I tried. I don't even like hockey, but the author made it not only interesting — he actually had me on the edge of my seat during the game scenes. That's a feat in itself!
Highly recommended to any and all readers. This is slightly different from his previous work, and I welcome the change. An author has to grow to survive. I cannot wait to see what Backman publishes next!
(I'd also like to show my appreciation for Neil Smith, who translated this fine novel from the original Swedish to English. Great job!)