Friday, March 16, 2018


Beartown (Björnstad, #1)Beartown by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“There are few words that are harder to explain than "loyalty." It's always regarded as a positive characteristic, because a lot of people would say that many of the best things people do for each other occur precisely because of loyalty. The only problem is that many of the very worst things we do to each other occur because of the same thing.”
I had to read this for work (yes, this is a benefit of being a librarian) and didn't expect to like it. It is, according to the blurb, about people in a small town in the middle of nowhere that is obsessed with hockey. It is much more than that though and I was impressed. The writing is great, the characters were complex and interesting (though I found many of them unlikable), and the structure of the novel was brilliant. The first page tells you that someone (it doesn't say who) is going to hold a gun to someone else's head and pull the trigger. You spend the rest of the book headed for that moment, still not knowing who the people are.
I am counting this book toward the European Reading Challenge because it is set in Sweden and the author is Swedish. Oddly I didn't realize this until well into the book when someone gives somebody a kronor. Initially I thought the book was set in a tiny Canadian community (it reminds me in some ways of the town in Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World) but when someone mentioned having moved back from Canada I figured it must be set in Minnesota until I got to the kronor thing. Clearly this novel speaks to a broader truth about small town life. I loved the jokes about the people from the next town over and the reality that no matter how lame the place you are from there is somewhere else you will look down on. It is sad, but it is so human.

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