Beartown by Fredrik Backman

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 is a speck of a place. High unemployment, it’s run down, and has seen better days. With the prospect of the junior hockey team of finally making it to the national semi- finals , the fate of the town rests on a handful of boys.

This book is one that reflects a deep love of hockey in a small town. The pride and the way of life that it has become is  just as important as breathing, is well written. Kevin is the local golden boy, has the hopes of winning the semi final rests on his and Benji’s shoulders. Two friends who can read each others thoughts when they are on the ice. They are chalk and cheese but the friendship works well for both boys.

Maya and Ana have the same kind of friendship. Two girls who formed a life long bond when Ana saved Maya when they were children.

The dynamic of both sets of friends gets tested but it’s how well a friendship can survive a life changing event that makes this story.

This book is about is about the bonds of friendship. New ones formed, old ones under strain and some that just don’t survive. I love how that theme was woven in with hockey. The characters are varied and strongly written. While you know who the perpitrator and victim are its how the community reacts that is a big focal point halfway through the book.

I was captivated by this book. You get drawn into both sides of the event and all the while I was cheering for certain characters as well as feeling lukewarm to others only to have my feelings change as the story went on.

I have read all of Mr. Backman’s books and have loved them all for various reasons but find that with each book they become stronger. The varied themes that he writes about is something else I love about him. He can write about the elderly and young alike and gives each character and story a depth that is wonderful to read.

ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 stars

Crash

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And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

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“Isn’t that the best of all life’s ages, an old man thinks as he looks at his grandchild, when a boy is just big enough to know how the world works but still young enough to refuse to accept it.”

Grandpa and Noah are sitting on a bench in a square that keeps getting smaller every day. The square is strange but also familiar, full of the odds and ends that have made up their lives: Grandpa’s work desk, the stuffed dragon that Grandpa once gave to Noah, the sweet-smelling hyacinths that Grandma loved to grow in her garden.

As they wait together on the bench, they tell jokes and discuss their shared love of mathematics. Grandpa recalls what it was like to fall in love with his wife, what it was like to lose her. She’s as real to him now as the first day he met her, but he dreads the day when he won’t remember her.

Sometimes Grandpa sits on the bench next to Ted, Noah’s father—Ted who never liked math, prefers writing and playing guitar, and has waited his entire life for his father to have time for him, to accept him. But in their love of Noah, they have found a common bond.

Grandpa, Grandma, Ted, and Noah all meet here, in this peculiar space that is growing dimmer and more confusing all the time. And here is where they will learn to say goodbye, the scent of hyacinths in the air, nothing to fear. This little book with a big message is certain to be treasured for generations to come. 

I read this last night and bawled my eyes out. It was so raw and emotional that tears streamed down my face and made it hard to read at the end.

As much as it is about love and aging it is about loss. The loss of memories, the very things that make us who we are and what those around us mean in our lives. What happens when your memories slip through your fingers like sand and you barely remember who you are, never mind those around you. What it is to see the person you love to not remember who you are and the pain that goes with that. It is a story that I am sure many can relate to, and that is the most heartbreaking thing of all.

My father has started with dementia and I see this as a preview of things to come.  I have known people with Alzheimer’s and it’s heartbreaking to see them struggle to remember and to also see family members sad expressions as their father, mother or grandparents not know who they are and confuse them with people from the past.  As short as this story is I had to stop a few times to get a grip on my emotions as they overwhelmed me a few times. I suggest that if you start reading this one to have tissues handy as you will need them.

A powerful short story that left me sleepless thinking about it.

ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review

5/5 stars

Crash

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Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

imageBritt-Marie can’t stand mess. She eats dinner at precisely the right time and starts her day at six in the morning because only lunatics wake up later than that. And she is not passive-aggressive. Not in the least. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention.

But at sixty-three, Britt-Marie has had enough. She finally walks out on her loveless forty-year marriage and finds a job in the only place she can: Borg, a small, derelict town devastated by the financial crisis. For the fastidious Britt-Marie, this new world of noisy children, muddy floors, and a roommate who is a rat (literally), is a hard adjustment.

As for the citizens of Borg, with everything that they know crumbling around them, the only thing that they have left to hold onto is something Britt-Marie absolutely loathes: their love of soccer. When the village’s youth team becomes desperate for a coach, they set their sights on her. She’s the least likely candidate, but their need is obvious and there is no one else to do it.

 

Having recently read A Man Called Ove, I was excited to see this book on Netgalley.  I have to admit it took me longer to warm up to Britt-Marie than I did to Ove.  Britt-Marie is a slave to her lists, her rigid timetable, manners and she is OCD when it comes to cleaning.  She is the type of woman who goes unnoticed, she is social inept and doesn’t have a sense of humour.  She wants to be seen but is so afraid of what others may think as she struggles to find her place in life.  When she stumbles into Borg, trying to find a new life and to live outside her comfort zone she doesn’t know what she is getting into.

This story also revolves around soccer, a game she can’t stand.  When the local neighbourhood kids take it upon themselves to appoint her as their new coach she is at a loss at what to do besides laundering their jerseys.  She slowly integrates herself to the town and it’s people, she finds that while things don’t always go according to plan sometimes things just work out for the best.

I loved seeing Britt-Marie slowly emerge like a butterfly from its cocoon. Her transformation was painfully slow but no less wonderful to read.  She is like many women who live for taking care of the home and finds it impossible to figure out who she is outside of that environment.  Stuck in a rut and with no self esteem or worth without her husband by her side she struggles to find herself after only taking care of others for so long.

The kids in this story are amazingly written.  You get a glimpse into their lives and how much they impact on Britt-Marie, how they bring her out of her shell.  She becomes a better person because of them.

This was a wonderful book!  If you read A Man Called Ove you will love this book as well.  Don’t let this one pass you by.

ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5/5 Stars

Crash

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Pre-Order: Amazon UK