Fredrik Backman initially gained acclaim for his endearing novels about quirky, outwardly grumpy protagonists with hearts of gold. Beartown is a bit of a departure, but might be his best yet, and brings all of his excellent characterization to a serious and timely read. On the surface, this is about a small town in Sweden, the eponymous Beartown, whose citizens’ lives revolve around the high school hockey team. However, readers who have no interest in sports will find that this book is actually about people and their motivations when something they love goes horribly awry. Backman’s portrayal of his characters’ struggles with where their loyalties lie and how they can justify right and wrong is poignantly realistic. While often a hard read, Beartown is a thought-provoking approach to issues highly relevant to our current culture.
Raela Schoenherr is an editor at a Minnesota publishing company. She loves to talk books and writing on Twitter at @raelaschoenherr.