I hate happy endings. Good endings. Happily ever afters. You name it.
I also hate sad endings. Depressive endings. Pathetic endings.
I think the mark of any true novelist is to nail the ending, you know – Getting that bittersweet, twisting-your-heart but also spreading-warmth-inside-you kind of ending. I’m extremely picky about books I read and I hardly come across a handful of books a year that drive home that wow-factor. Actually, there are only a handful of books that you come across in a life time that can be described as perfect, or at least almost perfect. And Beartown is one of them. I have read a couple of novels by Fredrik Backman in the past, but Beartown has topped them all. Let’s run through the story and I’ll tell you why.
In a solitary town, far away from everywhere, hockey is everything. It’s what defines everyone, whether they like the sport or hate it, whether the play the sport or not. And in a place where you’ve lost all hope, and Hockey is the only thing that drives you, it’s taken very, very seriously. A junior team’s match is the heart and soul of the people. They’d kill, beat up people they love for that team to bring home the trophy.
Backman details almost every character in the city – every team player, the parents of every team player, the coach of the club, the General Manager of the club and his family – I could go on but won’t be able to relay it half as well as Backman has. Kevin – a star and prodigy is described right from the beginning. Sounds like your typical novel right, but no – Kevin is the best in the field but his childhood has been rough. You know, neglected by his parents but still seems down to earth and is the pride of Beartown. He’s brought his town to the semi-finals and will take them all the way. Still seems mediocre? Well our star gets carried away at a party at his house and decides to rape the General Manager’s daughter.
Nothing is black and white in Beartown. Not even a single person – their characters seem to be painted in different overlays of grey and Backman brilliantly illuminates all of them in a style of writing I can only describe as flawless.
In a town where Hockey is everything, the star player has been accused of rape. Will the town bring justice? Or will they shun the girl, call her a liar and attention-seeker or, will the blame her for everything? Or will they choose to ignore her and celebrate and defend their star whom they’ve seen grow up?
I have no wish to narrate the story to you, but I do urge you to start reading Beartown today. It undoubtedly is the best book I’ve read so far this year.
Picture credits: Penguin