Rating: 5 Stars
Date Started: 9 May 2017
Date Finished: 18 May 2017
Sometimes I think it would be better to voluntarily stab myself in the heart rather than read a really good book. This is one of those times.
This is my first Frederik Backman, but I’ve heard people rave about his work so much that when this book came up on Netgalley I requested it without even looking at the description. I started reading and wasn’t sure that I would join the ranks of my fellow readers because they structure of the book was different than I usually enjoy, although the writing was good enough to carry me through the initial phase of getting used to it.
Pretty much the whole first half of the book focuses on Beartown and it’s passion — Hockey. I know much more about hockey than I ever wanted to, but vibe of the town was pretty familiar. Late nights at the local sports field, screaming my head off for our local boys to run just a little faster, celebrating success after a great game… I come from a rugby town. I know exactly the kind of expectations can be placed on a team. The adrenaline rush that can carry a whole community along on a wave of euphoria. I could identify with the characters in that way at least.
Backman definitely took his time building the temperature of the story and the characters. There are a lot of players and you get to know them all. Even the nameless ones; Kira’s colleague who is simply referred to as her colleague throughout, the pack of men in the black jackets who are loyal to the bears, the bass player who allows a boy to express tenderness. I loved many of the characters, and I didn’t even hate the ones who were ‘bad’… not really. That’s a whole other moral discussion though.
Once the “main event” happened, all I could think about was last year and the Brock Turner scandal. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the inspiration for Backman to write this novel. It certainly has the same kind of elements.
As a woman who’ve been in certain situations myself, it physically hurt my heart and my psyche to read this book. Not only does it deal with an issue that is so fragile that people come to blows about it, but because it was written well enough for me to immerse myself in the story. I felt like I was right there and experiencing everything, and I felt an overwhelming sense disappointment and heart-soreness at the actions of people. It was made even more poignant because it keeps reminding me of similar stories I’ve heard about and read about, and the fact that it’s not just fiction… people actually do think this way and act this way.
The conclusion of the book is kind of anti-climatic, but honestly I don’t think there’s ever going to be a perfect way to end a story like this. Because at the end of the day, life goes on, but there are no winners and you will never forget.