written on June 15th
Just recently, as in last night, I finished Beartown by Fredrik Backman. Let me tell you, it‘s not just about hockey, but about a life, a town and the inhabitants of this town. Their burning passion and desire to be known for more than what they are; a failing town. A town that’s lost too many jobs, where the divide between the wealthy and the poor are evident. There, within this town, their future lies with the Juniors Hockey team and their chance at winning the biggest game of their lives. Oh how this game can change everything. How it can bring about a hockey prep school. How it can make things so much better for those in Beartown.
But within this woven story about what hockey means to many different characters surfaces a story of survival and pardoning. Of people who end up hurt, struggling and their way of dealing with it. The rumors, oh the vicious rumors and the truths that the townspeople tell themselves because they think it was all a coup, a reason to throw the biggest game away for them. How they must learn how to live on, to support a town that’s sinking and failing in many ways; but how?
I’m going to give some spoilers, so please continue reading if you’ve already read this book or want to know more about my personal opinion about this book.
Now, this is my personal opinions on this book. The first book that I read by Fredrik was “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” and I absolutely adored that book. I actually was moved to tears reading it because a few things reminded me far too much of my Grandpa G and the relationship that we had. I loved that man with everything. He was my superhero. So when I walked around Target and saw that Fredrik had a new book out that was a story that utilized my favorite sport as a talking point, I got all sorts of excited. So I put myself on the waiting list for it at the library. Low and behold I would get a nice email from the library telling me that it was in and it was my turn to read it. I was ecstatic.
So I went in one Wednesday and picked it up. I began this book on June 7th, only two days after finsihing the first Backman book I had read. I wont lie, I wasn’t sure what to exprect about this book. It took on a different feeling than the prior book and was a little bit more heavy and real than the other one I read. But because it was hockey related, I kept turning pages and reading. More and more I saw myself in some of these characters; the dedication, wanting to be the best, and holding onto that one friend like they’re your sibling.
But I will admit, I did not expect the plot twist when Maya got raped by Kevin. Not even close. But I will say I absolutely adored her for her strength when she pardons Kevin at the end. That is how you’re strong. Many may think that it’s wrong to make the attacker feel the same pain as the victim, but sometimes you have to, to get the point across. Because that’s all you can do sometimes.
There’s one paragraph though that resonated so deeply with me last night that I’m even tearing up thinking about it. Benji’s sister Adri used to play hockey in a nearby town named Hed. She quit when she was a young teenager just because her mom didn’t like shuffling her back and forth between Beartown and Hed. Well, Adri gets the idea that they should start a girls team. Her and Sune go off on a mission of knocking on peoples’ doors late in the evening and she knocks on one door, a little girl who can bearly reach the handle answers. Adri asks the little girl if shes ever heard of hockey, she nods yes, Adri assk if the girl likes hockey, once again the girl nods yes, Adri asks if she can skate, the girl nods her head no, Adri finally asks if she’d like to learn… the girl does. A page later I read this paragraph:
“None of them sees the first skate of the child who’s the last one out. She’s four years old, a scrawny little kid in gloves that are too big for her, with bruises everyone sees but nobody asks about. Her helmet slips down across her eyes, but the look in them is clear enough.”
Those words. They got right to my heart. If you don’t know about me, I used to play hockey. Initially it was to gain my Dad’s attention, so we had a common ground to talk and I thought that it would make him want to do more things with me since we had something big in common. It didn’t really. He complained about taking me to morning practices and once he almost forgot to pick me up from a practice. That was awesome. But what hockey really did was give me confidence. The first year I played my mom and I were still living with her second husband. He was abusive. I didn’t want to stay at home alone with him and hockey was a way to stay away until later in the evening instead of coming home right after school. It saved my life in that regard. I don’t even want to know what could’ve happened. Here’s some more backstory, my ex-stepdad was a contractor, he owned his own construction company and barely worked in the winter, so oft he was home in the afternoon during the winter months. I never felt right when I was home alone with him. I was always on high alert. Always watching my back. Usually I locked myself in my bedroom and read or tried to play my guitar… just something. Sometimes I’d go down to the shop (it was a second garage where he had a bunch of his table saws and stuff) and play on the piano he had there. Something just to keep my mind busy and away from him.
Hockey saved my life. It gave me a purpose. So that paragraph… that sat heavy on me last night. I started skating at 14, not 4, but damn, did I have determination. I loved that sport and still love it more than anything.
So for me, this book, and everything about it, just filled me with joy. I adored it and its story. Fredrik’s style of writing also made it a very quick read, 7 days to be exact.
If you want to pick up this book, I highly suggest that you do. It’s a great, easy and quick read. You’ll quickly become in love with the characters and what they represent.
Thanks for reading,
Featured photo from Pexels