Staff Review: Beartown
Team sports can be important to a small town. In the case of Beartown, a tiny, rural town in Sweden, that sport is hockey. Boys begin skating almost as soon as they can walk, and the townspeople look at the sport as a source of pride, validation and opportunity.
Beartown follows around fifteen different characters, who all have ties to the town’s beloved hockey club. Chief among them are Peter Andersson, the club’s general manager; his daughter, Maya, a 15 year-old aspiring musician; Kevin Erdahl, the junior team’s best player; Benji, Kevin’s best friend; and Amat, a rising star on the junior team. The book begins with a lot of anticipation, as the junior team prepares to play in the national semi-finals. But after one of the players is accused of rape, the accuser is vilified by the many of the townspeople and Beartown starts to unravel.
One of the things I liked best about this book is how the author alternates between so many citizens in Beartown, which really enhances the story and makes the town feel that much more real. It’s also interesting to see how much the townspeople cling to hockey, how much it is ingrained into their everyday lives, and how angry and violent they become when they feel their traditions slipping away. Though the book takes place in Sweden, the plot could easily happen anywhere in the US. It’s a novel that’s not only engrossing, but also very thought-provoking and enlightening.