Björnstad

Björnstad Beartown

Beartown #1

Winning a junior ice hockey championship might not mean a lot to the average person, but it means everything to the residents of Beartown, a community slowly being eaten alive by unemployment and the surrounding wilderness. A victory like this would draw national attention to the ailing town: it could attract government funding and an influx of talented athletes who would choose Beartown over the big nearby cities. A victory like this would certainly mean everything to Amat, a short, scrawny teenager who is treated like an outcast everywhere but on the ice; to Kevin, a star player just on the cusp of securing his golden future in the NHL; and to Peter, their dedicated general manager, whose own professional hockey career ended in tragedy.

At first, it seems like the team might have a shot at fulfilling the dreams of their entire town. But one night at a drunken celebration following a key win, something happens between Kevin and the general manager’s daughter—and the next day everything seems to have changed. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected. With so much riding on the success of the team, the line between loyalty and betrayal becomes difficult to discern. At last, it falls to one young man to find the courage to speak the truth that it seems no one else wants to hear.

Fredrik Backman knows that we are forever shaped by the places we call home, and in Beartown, an emotionally powerful, sweetly insightful story, he explores what can happen when we carry the heavy weight of other people's dreams on our shoulders.

Reviews

  • “You’ll love this engrossing novel.”

    People, US

  • “Backman is a masterful writer, his characters familiar yet distinct, flawed yet heroic. /.../ There are scenes that bring tears, scenes of gut-wrenching despair, and moments of sly humor /.../ Like Friday Night Lights, this is about more than youth sports; it’s part coming-of-age novel, part study of moral failure, and finally a chronicle of groupthink in which an unlikely hero steps forward to save more than one person from self-destruction. A thoroughly empathetic examination of the fragile human spirit, Backman’s latest will resonate a long time.”

    Kirkus Reviews, US

  • “Lest readers think hockey is the star here, it’s Backman’s rich characters that steal the show, and his deft handling of tragedy and its effects on an insular town. While the story is dark at times, love, sacrifice, and the bonds of friendship and family shine through, ultimately offering hope and even redemption.”

    Publishers Weekly, US

  • “As popular Swedish exports go, Backman is up there with Abba and Stieg Larsson /…/ in Beartown he’s not skating by (so to speak) on his name alone; he really has a feel for the sport, and for sports in general.”

    The New York Times Book Review, US

  • Beartown has so much going on within its enjoyably readable pages that putting it in a literary box is all but impossible—and indeed that is one of the many reasons readers will pass this book amongst one another with a confident “I think you’ll like this.” /.../ Masterful in its storytelling and honesty, this is another winner for Backman, surpassing even his much-lauded A Man Called Ove.”

    The Amazon Book Review, US

  • “[A] slow burn of a novel about a community that pours all its hopes into a youth hockey team. Think Friday Night Lights for Swedes.”

    The Oprah Magazine, US

  • “Consider this the Friday Night Lights of the ice rink. /.../ Beartown has all the pleasures of a rainy-day matinee.”

    USA Today, US

  • “With Beartown Fredrik Backman cements his standing as a writer of astonishing depth and proves that he also has very broad range plus the remarkable ability to make you understand the feelings of each of a dozen different characters with the same ease he did in his works that were focused on a single central character. The most compelling reason to read Beartown is that it is written by Fredrik Backman. Each of his books have been a pleasure to read — well-paced and with characters so well developed you feel as if you know them and how they think and see things; you feel as though you’re watching and listening not reading. Always with this writer the story is fully packed with wise insights into the human experience causing characters and readers to ponder life’s great question of who we are, what we hope to be and how we should lead our lives.”

    The Washington Times, US

  • “There are, in the end, real acts of bravery and sacrifice in this appealing novel.”

    Wall Street Journal, US

  • “Another solid offering from best-selling Swedish author Backman, with many parallels for American readers and small towns everywhere.”

    Library Journal, US

  • “There’s so much heartbreak here, so much wisdom and raw emotion packed inside, that reading this novel makes for a powerful experience.”

    The Book Reporter, US

  • “Fredrik Backman puts out some of the most human novels. Each and every work is carefully, delicately crafted, delving into the emotional depths of individuals that one might not look twice in real life. /…/ Beartown is undoubtedly his masterpiece.”

    New York Journal of Books, US

  • “This story is a charmer”

    Forth Worth Star-Telegram, US

  • “You don’t have to know hockey to enjoy this story; in fact, you might like it a little better if you don’t. You may even love it if you’re a fan of keeps-you-guessing novels of exquisite storytelling. Undoubtedly, if you’re a big Backman fan, you need this book because Beartown cannot be beat.”

    The Oklahoman, US

  • “Through the novel’s dark times — and there are many of them — the bonds of friendship and family almost always trump adversity.”

    Seattle Times, US

  • “This novel feels so relevant with its ugly locker room banter, bullying, disrespect of immigrants, dismissal of due process and the town’s blame-the-victim attitudes. Thankfully, some characters see the light. /…/ Don’t expect absolute justice in Beartown but prepare to be uplifted. When a witness to Maya’s rape vividly describes it, “no one in the room will ever forget it.” The same can be said for the memorable Beartown.”

    Minneapolis Star Tribune, US

  • “Read this book, whether or not you’re a hockey fan. The game is important to the story, but much more interesting to this reviewer is the author’s keen sense of people and their emotions, strengths and weaknesses, and how they live and love and suffer in Beartown. ”

    The Missourian, US

  • “Backman’s dialogue and characters in Beartown create a story that is both specific and universal. With hockey as the story’s center, he explores loyalty to sport, relationships, the town and oneself.”

    St Louis Post-Dispatch, US

  • “Backman is the Dickens of our age, and though you'll cry, your heart is safe in his hands.”

    Green Valley News, US

  • Beartown is a moving novel, with a powerful message and memorable characters. /…/ It is a graceful and hard-hitting, compassionate and unapologetic examination of sports culture and the people who breathe life into an otherwise meaningless game.”

    The Winnipeg Free Press, Canada

  • “Fredrik Backman emerges in Beartown as an improved version of himself. /…/ One realizes that Backman has studied the sport in depth, and he recounts the environment and the game in a precise and credible manner.”

    Dagbladet, Norway

  • “A compelling and challenging novel about relationships and life in a small community where just one thing matters: ice hockey!”

    Verdens Gang, Norway

  • “A brilliant novel about sport, in this case ice hockey, and what it can do to people in a small community.”

    DI Weekend, Sweden

  • “I am pathologically uninterested in sports, all kinds of sports. And yet I read the book in one sitting.”

    Expressen, Sweden

  • “Count on Beartown to grow beyond the boundary of the book format. ”

    Dagens Nyheter, Sweden

  • “The novel centers on the themes of the love of sports and the love for ones children. The feelings are intense but also blind. Beartown explores how far a parent will go to protect their child, no matter if the child is the victim or the perpetrator. ”

    Aftonbladet, Sweden

  • “Fredrik Backman is a skilled painter of character portraits and it is those that carry the story. /.../ Fredrik Backman exposes a grimy macho culture, but he also lets the men scrutinize themselves and grow. There is hope. Then comes the bang and nothing is ever the same again. The story deepens thanks to the turning point, and Fredrik Backman steps up and does something important: he gives the vulnerable teenage girl a voice and puts his foot down firmly in, and even beyond, his novel. /.../ As a declaration of love for sports Beartown is as strong as black coffee in a sports hall an early Sunday morning.”

    Göteborgs-Posten, Sweden

  • “Fredrik Backman’s style is unmistakable /…/ Dramaturgically, the novel is skillfully constructed, no murders occur but the tension of the story escalates in an almost thriller-like manner /…/ a compelling story that’s finely written, not least the depiction of the hockey itself engages (which is saying something, as I’m utterly uninterested in the sport).”

    Sydsvenskan, Sweden

  • “A poignant story about how much an ice hockey team can matter to a small community struggling to survive /…/ An insightful, striking depiction of sports culture /…/ and in addition an excellent description of the friendship between two fifteen-year-old girls.”

    SVT, Sweden

  • Beartown has a greater gravity and darkness than [Backman’s] previous novels, it’s a touching and thought-provoking story about loyalty, friendship, norms and exclusion, with characters that stay with the reader for a long time. ”

    Allers, Sweden

  • “Like Backman’s other novels, the end is both painful and warm /…/ Probably the best Swedish novel ever written about sport.”

    TT, Sweden

  • Beartown is a story about families, about friendship and loyalty, inequality, female vulnerability, male back-slapping, and parenthood. /…/ No person’s story is too little to be told, Backman includes them all. /…/ [Beartown] is a novel with a big heart. ”

    Jönköpings-Posten, Sweden

  • “The story is a highly character-driven one where the ice hockey forms the foundation of the narrative. /…/ [Fredrik Backman] succeeds in pinpointing the mechanisms that rule people’s relationships to sports. Furthermore, he’s spot on in his description of how sports in the long run can mold or corrupt identity. ”

    Helsingborgs Dagblad, Sweden

  • “There is a strong dramatic nerve in [Fredrik Backman’s] elaborate way of conveying everyday reality in shards that are assembled into a dense, eventful whole that really strikes the reader. Beartown is a kind of problem play that moves extremely skilfully near the melodramatic without derailing. Its originality is substantial and the book credibly conveys the dual faces of everyday life. An impressive novel, like no other. ”

    BTJ, Sweden

  • “Fredrik Backman writes a more substance heavy and serious novel than earlier works, imbuing it with both suspense, powerful emotions and moral dilemmas. /…/ I am touched by the story and cling to it.”

    Östgöta Correspondenten, Sweden

  • “The story of an ice hockey team’s rise and fall grows into a depiction of society where all sorts of problems are highlighted. Unemployment, the economic gap between rich and poor, segregation, misogyny, homophobia and hooliganism are all there, but so are descriptions of love, friendship and loyalty /…/ Fredrik Backman’s technique of creating cliffhangers makes the novel a real page-turner.”

    Norrbottens-Kuriren, Sweden

  • “Fredrik Backman has written a Swedish "Friday Night Lights" /…/ He shows how ice hockey connects to every part of the local community /…/ he has grown as an author in Beartown /…/ [Fredrik Backman] displays an intuitive feeling for social status that feels almost American. No comparisons otherwise – but I think of Tom Wolfe. He knows exactly where his characters are on the social rung, which in my experience is unusual among Swedish authors.”

    Gefle Dagblad, Sweden

  • “In his new work, Fredrik Backman abandons the feel-good style and rather crafts a feeling of unease around the community and the ice hockey team that the story is built around. /…/ One recognizes Fredrik Backman’s natural narrative style, and every chapter has its own punch line in the form of a few carefully chosen words, words charged with such drama that they make one tremble and immediately turn the page for more /…/ [Beartown is] an emotional and striking portrayal of the life surrounding an ice hockey club.”

    Norrländska Socialdemokraten, Sweden

  • “This is an important book that should be mandatory reading for all parents, young people in high school, and those in the bus headed to an ice hockey game. Not a single word is redundant or unnecessary. Some particular sentences hit you like a brutal punch right to the soul.”

    SR P4, Sweden

  • Beartown is a story that gives you a stomachache, successfully highlighting themes like identity, masculinity and group dynamics. To summarize: it’s an unbelievably good novel.”

    Icakuriren, Sweden

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Author
Photo: #{bookData.artist.imageByline}Fredrik Backman
Published
2016
Genre
  • Literary
Pages
473
Reading material

English translation

Swedish edition

Rights sold

Bulgaria, Ciela

Canada, Simon & Schuster

Czech Republic, Host

Denmark, People’s Press

Finland, Otava

Germany, Fischer

Hungary, Animus

Iceland, Bjartur & Veröld

Italy, Mondadori

Korea, Dasan

Netherlands, Q

Norway, Cappelen Damm

Slovenia, Mladinska

Sweden, Piratförlaget

UK, Michael Joseph

US, Atria

Film rights sold

Sweden, Filmlance International

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