Hockey, by the book readers- we are charting a new path this week. So far, I have covered biographies and memoirs of hockey players on the fringes of the game. Fringes if you view hockey through the lens of the professional game. These are the stories that people are not familiar with, stories that breathe life into the game that we all love and many of us play. This time, we venture into the realm of hockey fiction. A quick search on Amazon shows a ton of hockey fiction, most of it of the salacious romance variety. This two-book set is not a part of that. Beartown and it’s sequel Us Against You are two stellar works of fiction.
Beartown: Incredible Hockey Fiction
In the opinion of Hockey, by the book, this author, Fredrik Backman, is a genius. His work is widely regarded as some of the best fiction of the past decade. This story centers around a small Swedish town and its junior hockey team. The hockey is great for fans of the game and fully relatable for all readers.
Although author Fredrik Backman is not a player he creates a recognizable hockey world in Beartown. It is a world that anyone who spent any amount of time would recognize immediately. Set in a small, rough and tumble, Swedish town it gives readers a glimpse into the life of its residents. Instead of relying on hackneyed cliches, Backman sketches a full portrait of each person in the town. The character development alone is staggering and nearly without parallel in modern fiction. There are no loose ends left untangled and upon finishing the book one is left wanting more. Luckily for you, you can order both right now. I had to wait 15 months for the companion Us Against You. We’ll cover that book in the next of these segments. For now, let’s jump into Beartown.
Great Hockey, Great Characters
The story of the town and it’s residents is in parts a coming of age story of a young woman who survives a tragic event, a thriller, and a family drama. It moves through each of these with the effortless grace of New York Islanders’ Mat Barzal skating around defenders on his way to the goal.
Beartown opens with two teenagers, one holding a shotgun to the head of the other. The scene shocks the reader and it takes the length of the book to get to the source of that moment. The story hinges on how the actions of two people can affect an entire town.
Fortunes Hinge on Difficult Decisions
The hockey does not disappoint either. There is plenty to chew on for even the most die-hard amongst hockey players and fans. The team is much-lauded and is on the cusp of the national championship. There is a chance that if they win, the downtrodden town could change its fortune. The players buy into it for the game. In keeping with the truth of the game, the coach drives the team hard and demands that his players win. The front office is hell-bent on winning. Each position on and around the team features as a part of the story and Backman gets it right, with one notable exception- the goalie. A small oversight that is remedied in the second book.
The fate of the town rests on the shoulders of the Beartown team. Their young shoulders bear the weight of the town and its people. Due to this, the players are revered as gods. However, that all comes crashing down when the star player is accused of rape. This allegation forces everyone to choose a side. Do they risk a forfeit and lose the money that might come from a win? Will those involved address the crime and give the victim closure, or do they go for the win, at the cost of the victim? These decisions forge new alliances and break up families and friends in a tornado of emotions and allegations. The parents, children, siblings, and innocent bystanders are not spared as the story unfolds. Backman masterfully faces the nasty truths in a manner that most authors shy away from.
Read this book for the story, the hockey, and the characters. Do yourself a favor and head to the library or bookstore to pick up a copy.
Got a book recommendation or one you want to mention? Let us know over on the ABNT Forum!
Feature Image Credit: Penguin Publishing