Beartown: A Novel

Beartown: A Novel

by Fredrik Backman

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Overview

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY: LibraryReads BookBrowse Goodreads

“You’ll love this engrossing novel.” —People

The bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.

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 explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501160783
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 04/25/2017
Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 1,203
File size: 7 MB

About the Author

Fredrik Backman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove (soon to be a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks), My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Britt-Marie Was Here, Beartown, Us Against You, as well as two novellas, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer and The Deal of a Lifetime. His books are published in more than forty countries. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children. Connect with him on Twitter @BackmanLand or on Instagram @backmansk.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Beartown includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
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Introduction

Beartown is a small community on the brink of disappearing into the surrounding forest as the town loses more and more young people and commerce to the larger surrounding towns. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, home of the hockey club that has long been the sole source of entertainment and pride for the townspeople, and the only possible ticket out of town for the young men who grew up playing hockey there.

Now, the seventeen-year-old boys who make up Beartown’s junior ice hockey team carry the immense weight of all the town’s hopes and dreams on their shoulders. The team is about to compete in the national semifinals, and they actually have a shot at winning—a win that could bring a new hockey school, commerce, and prosperity back to Beartown.

The outcome of this semifinal match has the potential to change lives and make dreams come true. But when an act of violence leaves a young girl traumatized the night following the big game, the town is divided—and the people of Beartown must decide what they stand for, what they’ll allow, and what they’re willing to give up on the road to victory.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. What does hockey mean to the people of Beartown? What does winning the semifinal mean for the town’s future?

2. The town and the parents of the Beartown junior hockey team place great expectations on the shoulders of seventeen-year-old boys. How does this pressure affect the boys? Have the club’s leaders (David, Sune, Peter, and the others) prepared the boys to deal with this pressure? Have the boys’ parents?

3. How do issues related to social class affect the people of Beartown and the hockey club? Do those who live in the Hollow have a different world view from those who live in the Heights? Does hockey cut through class distinctions or reinforce them?

4. What does Kira’s role as a working mother, and her job as a lawyer, mean to her? How does her job affect the way others treat her? Consider this passage from the novel:

“Not a second has passed since she had children without her feeling like a bad mother. For everything. For not understanding, for being impatient, for not knowing everything, not making better packed lunches, for still wanting more out of life than just being a mother. She hears other women in Beartown sigh behind her back: ‘Yes, but she has a full-time job, you know. Can you imagine?’” (p. 63)

5. How do Peter and Kira complement each other in their relationship? How does he make up for her weaknesses, and vice versa? Do you think they have a solid marriage? A happy one?

6. Peter loves hockey because it demands his all, his everything. What does hockey demand from each of the characters in the book? What does it take from them?

7. There are many different parents and styles of parenting portrayed in the book. Which parents do you think are the most successful at preparing their children for the real world? Why?

8. Consider this sentiment echoed throughout the book: “What is a community? It is the sum total of our choices.” (p. 312) By this definition, how do the townspeople of Beartown ultimately measure up? What kind of community have they built?

9. Several characters must find the courage to go against the grain of the tight-knit Beartown community. What is at stake for each character who does so, and is it worth it for them in the end?

10. Discuss the difference between male and female roles in the small village of Beartown. What is expected of the girls and women vs. the boys and men? Which characters break these expectations, and what are the consequences of doing so?

11. Consider the importance of names and nicknames throughout the novel. How does the lack of first names for “Kevin’s mother,” “Kevin’s father,” “David’s girlfriend,” and Benji’s “bass player” change your impression of them? What effect does calling Maya “the young woman” have on Maya and her own narrative? How does she start to reclaim her own story?

12. In the course of the novel, we see that playing on a sports team teaches young people values like loyalty, responsibility, and commitment. But we also see instances of exclusion, aggression, and entitlement. Are their certain behaviors that are rewarded in a sports competition but considered inappropriate in daily life? Give examples. Which characters in the book have difficulty navigating this?

13. The events of the novel force the junior boys to grow up quickly as they are faced with very adult realities. What kind of man does Amat become over the course of the book? What do his actions reveal about him? What kind of man does Bobo become? Kevin? Benji?

14. Maya is surprised by how easily she can start to lie to her best friend, Ana, and keep secrets from her. How do each character’s secrets affect his or her relationship with loved ones? Consider the secrets between friends (Maya and Ana, Kevin and Benji, Amat and Zach), as well as those between parents and children, and husbands and wives.

15. How does Maya’s final act shape her future? How does it shape Kevin’s? Do you think a form of justice is achieved? Why or why not?

16. Why do you think Benji chooses to stay in Beartown and play for Sune’s A-Team instead of following the others to Hed? Was his choice affected by his relationship with the bass player?

17. At the end of the novel, do you think the tradition of the Beartown Hockey Club continues? Has its fundamental character changed? How do you think it will change going forward?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Who would you cast in the movie of Beartown?

2. If you haven’t read Fredrik Backman’s other novels before, go back and read A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, or Britt-Marie Was Here, as well as the novella And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, and compare the main themes to that of Beartown. Are there any universal themes you notice in all of Backman’s books?

3. Watch the classic hockey movie Miracle (2004), which tells the story of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” USA Olympic hockey team, with your book club. How does Coach Herb Brooks’s coaching style compare to that of Sune and David in Beartown?

4. Follow author Fredrik Backman on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Backmanland/) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/Backmanland) for news about upcoming books, events, and more.

Customer Reviews

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Beartown 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 63 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was so good the characters are still in my mind they are like family. This is what a book should do take you away to a place you never been and make you want to stay there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Each book by this author is better than the last. Really had to read this as slow as I could since it will be a while to the next one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not as sweet as a man called ove. Tense and thought provoking. Read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My son plays hockey and it was perfect for him. Dont bother hesitating to buy this, it is amazing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a powerful story with great characters! Loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I relly enjoyed this story, even knowing nothing about hockey. The characters were well-developed and I felt great empathy for them all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow was not expecting this story line, was expecting the wry humor and gruff charters in the three previous books of Mr Blackman's I have read. At first almost quit, hockey and I are strangers, but this is ten times deeper and more though provoking and so glad I stuck it out and now know what a great book this is!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome. As a hickey player. Truly hit home. Should be a great movie
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars The Scandal (also titled Beartown) is the fourth full-length novel by Swedish blogger, columnist and author, Fredrik Backman. It is translated from Swedish by Neil Smith. As remote as this place in the forest is, and barely surviving economic downturns, closures and redundancies, Beartown has one thing going for it: the Beartown Ice Hockey Club Juniors. While the A Team is pretty well hopeless, the Juniors have a star who might just get them to the Final in the big city. And that would bring the attention of sponsors and investors and governing bodies. A kick start for the town would be most welcome, as even those Beartown residents who don’t like ice hockey will acknowledge. But in the hubris of an interim win, someone steps beyond the bounds of the decency that could be expected, and that whole promising future is thrown into jeopardy. Backman’s opening sentence tantalises the reader: “Late one evening towards the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barrelled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s head and pulled the trigger.” The mystery of who and how and why is gradually revealed, and involves some twists and a red herring or two, as well as a good dose of philosophising, quite a lot of social commentary and much ice hockey. Backman is very skilled at the short vignette that describes his minor characters, and also certain important incidents in the lives of major characters. None of his characters is one-dimensional: all have flaws and most have a conscience; some disappoint and some surprise; many keep secrets and some act out of guilt or the hope to protect their loved ones from hurt. In this tale, Backman touches on several topical themes: the behaviour of sporting team members off the field; peer pressure and bullying; “blame the victim” mentality; loyalty and responsibility; the tacit acceptance of the violence inherent in contact sport; and the sense of entitlement that often affects the privileged. Yes, there is a lot of Ice Hockey in this story, but it could actually be centred around any team sport in a remote town to the same effect. There is a very slow build-up to the climax, which may be frustrating for some readers, but patience is rewarded. Backman presents moral and ethical dilemmas in a realistic fashion, but is his formula wearing just a little thin? This is a very good read, but not a brilliant one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great chacterization. Excellent plot. Fascinating setting! It is about a hockey team but you do not need to know hockey to love this book. The novel includes young people, old people, the rich, the poor, the players, their families, business sponsors, teachers, coaches, towns supporters, fans, misfits, and more. This book deserves every award. Gripping story about how people react in a crisis. It is a story of relationships. The book deserves more than an A++++++++
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
great read
JamesJohnCudneyIV More than 1 year ago
4.5 out of 5 stars to Beartown, a 2016 contemporary novel by Fredrik Backman. Although the book had a bit of a difficult start for me, it developed into an emotionally-charged hot bed, triggering anger and frustration over so many things about the human race… and I’m quite glad I read it and enjoyed it. But wow… I haven’t a visceral emotional reaction to words like this in a very long time. Why This Book Beartown began showing up on a few of my Goodreads’ friends book lists earlier this year, intriguing my interest. I read the overview and saw many comments that “although the premise is all about a junior hockey team, it’s so much more.” I had a hard time believing that to be true, but thought it might be worth a chance if I could get it from NetGalley. And then I was approved to read it in early April. It took me a few weeks to find the right time in my reading schedule, but it all fell into place last week when I finally took on the book. Overview of Story Beartown is a very small town in the middle of a forest far away from everywhere else. It was once bigger and stronger, but the economy has pushed it further and further down a hole — to the point where all they have left is the possibility of a good junior hockey team in the future. Everyone in the town gets involved to some degree, either playing, supporting or raising the players who range from 13 to 17 years old. It’s the place where agents sometimes go to find the next great star of the professional leagues. But the lack of resources and funding has led to a bitter passion among the residents, who seem to stop at almost nothing to ensure their kids have an opportunity to win their games. Some of the residents are fair and honest. Some are rude and malicious. It’s a typical American sports town, breeding team camaraderie, fueled in some cases by hatred and anger, but in a few others, promoting acceptance and tolerance. Each of the key team members (8 to 10) has a personal story. Each of the parents and coaches has a vision. Rivalries and favoritism shine all around. And with each passing game, the school must decide what side of the coin they’re on… supporting the team and accepting hockey will always comes first, before education, or fighting back to keep a fair balance. But when someone is attacked, sides must be taken within the school, the team, the hockey league and the town. It’s a story about hope, control, loss, jealousy, anger, and desire. It’s about parenting styles. It’s about looking the other way for the sake of long-term goals, despite what you may be letting someone get away with in the short term. It’s about how people treat one another. And in so many cases, it is not the way it should be. Approach & Style Beartown is told by an omniscient narrator who can look into any character’s head at any moment. It’s told in the present tense with a few small reflections on the past. Point of view changes and hops around within chapters, defined by a few spaces between paragraphs. It’s mostly short sentence structure and paragraphs. Told the way people speak. Strengths 1. I am not a big sports fan. I played on a soccer and baseball team when I was younger. And I worked for a sports arena for nearly 20 years. But I have never been interested in hockey. And while the story is too focused in the beginning on the pertinent parts of the sport and rules, it generally has a very good approach to building a fever for the team among us readers. When an author can do
Anonymous 3 days ago
After years of playing hockey does the team help develop friends? Or is everyone so competitive that they expect only to win and be able to do whatever they want with no body complainting about them? Will the General manager and the town allow this to happen. Well written story with strong and believable characters.joy943
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read 4 books by fredrick bachman....I can't wait to the next one....keeping em coming please.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beartown is a novel that shows how a community deals with an event. It’s so real, so raw, and at time it angered me so much because everything that was explained, happens.
smg5775 More than 1 year ago
Wow! What a read! Nothing like I expected. I was expecting something like A Man Called Ove or Britt-Marie Was Here but Beartown is the opposite of them. Told through multiple eyes with a narrator putting his comments in throughout the book, it is a very intense read. There are some good one-liners that made me laugh out loud but there is more about our humanness and how we fail to live up to that humanness in this book. It is the teens who do the teaching here. Some show loyalty by sticking by the offender. Others show loyalty by standing up to those who want them to chose the wrong/evil path. This book so clearly shows how often the female is judged and found wanting while the male is seen as the "poor" victim. No one reverses how the questions are asked or the comments made to show who was in the wrong. I liked the teens. Too many of the adults were found wanting. Kevin's father is horrible. I loved Maya's solution. I was a little worried there. I appreciated her response to Kevin's mother. She shows so much compassion. Maya's parents, Peter and Kira, do the best they can but come to realize they can't protect their children. They are good complements for each other. I loved Benji and Amat and how they went against the others. This is a keeper. I cannot wait to read the sequel, Us Against You.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"The easiest way to unite a group isn't through love, because love is hard. It makes demands. Hate is simple." Oh this book has so much heart. If someone had told me I would love a book about hockey, I would have looked at them cross-eyed. But this book blew me away. From the very first page, I was all in. (I even shared a picture of it on my Instagram Stories, and I got so many comments back!) You know when you pick up a book and from the feel of the first page or first chapter you just KNOW that you are going to really love it. And still, it surprised me. I don't know how the author cast suspicion on literally every single teenage character in the entire town, but I decided to not even try to figure out who the first page was referring to and just go for the ride. And was it ever a ride. The story is about a town that is entirely built around a hockey club. Everyone in Beartown's life, business, family. So what does a town do when something happens that could bring down the club and the town right along with it. Honestly, words and descriptions and blurbs couldn't do the book justice. None of it could have prepared me for how much heart--broken hearts, loving hearts, all sides of a parent's heart, just so much heart. All the way to the last page.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The characters are compelling and real. No one is perfect, but these characters seem like real people with real faults and feelings.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another one I loved from this author. It was a page turner. Heartwarming and heartbreaking and I shed some tears for this town and Maya.
J-Shari More than 1 year ago
There are so many things I want to say about this book. It started and I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it, I had no idea where it was going. But everyone that read the book told me not to give up on it. So I didn’t. About half way through things started to pick up and I was thoroughly impressed by the depth that Blackman portrayed in those pages. I laughed, I cried, and I screamed. And how amazing is it that a book can make you feel all those emotions?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beartown starts slowly, introducing the people and intertwined lives of a hockey town. But when a girl is assaulted at a drunken post game players party, every person from coaches to sponsors to parents to players and girlfriends must choose between good and evil, between right and wrong, between hockey and everything else. The writing is original, gripping and deeply thought provoking. This is one of the best books of the past several years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written. Love the back and forth between characters and Tim periods. Done perfectly
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very timely in light of the ME, TOO movement. Thank you for a really good read