Us Against You (BearTown #2) by Fredrik Backman

Book Description:

Published: June 5, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.

Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.

Review –

Shockwaves from the incidents in Beartown, the first book, shake an economically depressed hockey town in this latest from the author of A Man Called Ove.

“Swedish novelist Backman loves an aphorism and is very good at them; evident in all his novels is an apparent ability to state a truth about humanity with breathtaking elegance. Often, he uses this same elegance to slyly misdirect his readers. Sometimes he overreaches and words that sound pretty together don’t hold up to scrutiny. This novel has a plethora of all three. Grim in tone, it features an overstocked cast of characters, all of whom are struggling for self-definition. Each has previously been shaped by the local hockey club, but that club is now being defunded and resources reallocated to the club of a rival town. Some Beartown athletes follow, some don’t. Lines are drawn in the sand. Several characters get played by a Machiavellian local politician who gets the club reinstated. Nearly all make poor decisions, rolling the town closer and closer to tragedy. Backman wants readers to know that things are complicated. Sure, many of Beartown’s residents are bigots and bullies. But some are generous and selfless. Actually, the bigots and bullies are also generous and selfless, in certain circumstances. And Lord knows they’ve all had a rough time of it. The important thing to remember is that hockey is pure. Except when it inspires violence. This is an interesting tactic for a novel in our cultural moment of sensitivity, and it can feel cumbersome. “When guys are scared of the dark they’re scared of ghosts and monsters,” he writes. “But when girls are scared of the dark they’re scared of guys.” Margaret Atwood said it better and with more authority decades ago.

Backman plays the story for both cynicism and hope, and his skill makes both hard, but not impossible, to resist.” Kirkus Reviews

The author gave us feelings of the highest highs and then dashed us back down to earth with the lowest lows. I was a nervous wreck for the entire book.  You will have to read the book (and why wouldn’t you) to know what I mean when I say that Fredrik Backman is a master storyteller and has a genius brain to keep everything straight when he wrote the accident scene near the very end of the book. I am in awe!

Five stars !!!!!

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman

Book Description:

Published: October 31, 2017

Format: Library Book

A father and a son are seeing each other for the first time in years. The father has a story to share before it’s too late. He tells his son about a courageous little girl lying in a hospital bed a few miles away. She’s a smart kid—smart enough to know that she won’t beat cancer by drawing with crayons all day, but it seems to make the adults happy, so she keeps doing it.

As he talks about this plucky little girl, the father also reveals more about himself: his triumphs in business, his failures as a parent, his past regrets, his hopes for the future.

Now, on a cold winter’s night, the father has been given an unexpected chance to do something remarkable that could change the destiny of a little girl he hardly knows. But before he can make the deal of a lifetime, he must find out what his own life has actually been worth, and only his son can reveal that answer.

With humor and compassion, Fredrik Backman’s The Deal of a Lifetime reminds us that life is a fleeting gift, and our legacy rests in how we share that gift with others.

Review –

Indeed, at just sixty-five pages with illustrations, this book is short but every word counts and that’ll hit you square in the heart. Backman’s lady in grey is worthy of sympathy; his father-character is regretful and cynical, wearing his loss like a badge he never wanted, but he’s not as savvy as he thinks he is. When that becomes apparent to both reader and character, beware.

You may shed tears over this book. You may need to savor it a second time, to feel its words again. However you read it, The Deal of a Lifetime,is an experience you’ll never trade.

The only derogatory comment I have is that sometimes during the reading of this book I felt a disconnect and had to go back and re-read some passages.

Beartown ( Bjornstad #1) by Fredrik Backman

Book Description:

Published: April 25, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

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.

Review –

This novel concerns a Swedish youth league hockey team and its  place in a declining town. “Hockey is just a silly little game,” he writes. “We burn and bleed and cry, fully aware that the most the sport can give us, in the very best scenario, is incomprehensibly meager and worthless: just a few isolated moments of transcendence. …But what the hell else is life made of?”

Beartown quickly turns dark as the author exposes the one-track hearts and minds of some of Beartown’s residents. The isolated community in the novel is in Sweden, but “Beartown” is a universal story of homophobia, sexism and politics that could take place anywhere.

“Small towns need a head start if they’re going to have any chance in the world,” Backman writes, and, as readers soon learn, covering up a heinous crime is not up for debate if the town is going to make economic and social advances. It’s why Backman’s descriptions of screeching hockey parents who yell at coaches and other parents during games — we’ve all seen them — seem almost comical set against the ugly group mentality that takes over after a teen is raped and the Beartown Ice Hockey Club’s star player is accused of the crime.

Current fiction may have no more courageous young female character than Maya, who faces hate and threats after she comes forward about the rape. Backman writes a gritty, heart-stopping account of the sexual assault after which the novel then pivots into even more ominous territory as the town turns on her and her family.

Beartown is not just about a sexual assault; it’s also about Beartown families closing ranks and perpetuating falsehoods to protect themselves and the hockey team. It’s also about the all-encompassing culture of youth sports — the physical, mental and emotional commitment demanded of the players (not necessarily a bad thing) and the way that team sponsors, coaches and fans treat players like products rather than human beings.

So, although the book initially seems to be about the sport of hockey in a very small Swedish town, it is about sooo much more than that.

Five stars and I highly recommend it.