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Beartown (Beartown, #1)
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Archive: Other Books > Beartown by Fredrik Backman - 5 stars

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annapi | 4866 comments Wow, this packs quite a powerful punch. The opening sentence: "Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead, and pulled the trigger."

That sets the tone for the rest of the book. It's the story of a small Swedish town obsessed with hockey, clinging to it as the last hope that will revitalize a dying town.

You would think that that winning combination, a favorite author and hockey, would ensure I devoured this from the get-go, but the darkness of that opening sentence permeated the book and made it for me a difficult slog. Backman maintains that tension and suspense throughout the exposition, keeping the reader waiting for the moments that will explain that opening. When they do come, they are painful, yet you cannot look away. But the story is more than just one incident, it's about the town and the people that live there. It's about society and the forces that make or break friendships and families. Ultimately, it's about being human and all the beauty and the ugliness that entails.

For most of the book, I knew it was a solid 4 stars, or 4.5 because although it did not make me feel good, I appreciated the skilled way it maintained the suspense. Then when in the last third things took off in the storyline, I just could not put it down. Then that last brilliant twist in the end to wrap things up hit me with one last powerful blow. The subtlety with which Backman handled his characters was another thing - in the beginning the reader sees Kevin more sympathetically than Benji, and slowly over time the reader realizes both of them (indeed, all the characters) are much more complex and can't be pigeonholed. Black and white don't exist here, and the shades of grey are multi-layered and many-toned. This book definitely deserves 5 stars, even though it's not likely one I could read again.

Jason Oliver | 2063 comments Wonderful review. His latest book is a sequel. Us Against You

Susie | 4488 comments What a great review. It was a five from me too. I thought it was very well done. Backman is proving to be a very versatile writer, isn’t he? I’m looking forward to reading his other titles. Thus far I’ve just read this and Ove.

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