Author: Fredrik Backman
“They hated it when people spoke of “the condition,” because conditions are untouchable. They wanted to have a face, a perpetrator. They needed someone to drown under the weight of all the guilt, because otherwise they themselves would be dragged beneath the surface. They were so selfish, they know that, but when they didn’t have anyone to punish there was only the sky left to scream at, and then their rage was too great for any human being to bear.”
This book was recommended to my by Jaz (@travelsinfiction) who could not stop raving about it when she read it, so I was very happy when it was chosen as the April pick for the Two Amy’s Book Club. The book is set in a quaint town in Sweden whose residents organise their lives around the town’s biggest asset – their hockey team. Beartown is old-fashioned in its values and not necessarily progressive in its actions, then, one day an unforgivable act is committed; hidden in a forest, and cut off from the fast-paced world around it, when Beartown is faced with an important decision, does it choose to believe the truth, or stay silent, knowing that if a horrendous crime has taken place, it will affect those involved for the rest of their lives?
Firstly, this book was amazing, and stayed with me for a while after I read it. It raises so many questions about how people live, and how they treat those around them. Maya’s story was heart-breaking but, unfortunately, all too familiar, a fact Backman does not steer away from.
I think, like a lot of people, I found this book was quite heavy with hockey terminology; I completely understand why Backman chose to focus on it though because the way hockey culture, and the culture which often goes hand-in-hand with team sport, helped show how it can allow people to get away with unforgivable things. The focus on hockey also allowed the reader to see how something could bring people to together, but just as quickly, tear them apart.
Benji was definitely my favourite character. I loved how he became a symbol of rebellion in the town, and how he refused to conform to the old-fashioned beliefs and traditions of the town. He loved hockey as much as everyone, but was all too aware of how hockey was controlling the way people in the town behaved, and could see how corrupt that would make them.
The different types of parents which Backman created was also very interesting; from ‘helicopter’ mums and dads who will do anything for their children, to parents who leave their children to work out their own path in life, I enjoyed the diversity of parenting-styles it showed. A lot of the older characters in Beartown worried about whether they’d done enough to help the children be the best versions of themselves, but one thing which Backman makes clear is that, no matter how you raise your children, how they choose to behave will always be out of your hands, all you can do it try your best to guide them.
Right from the start, this book raised so many questions about the society we live in, and the way we choose to react when other people stand accused. With so much truth being vocalised in society at the moment, and the #MeToo movement, this book does what other books are sometimes afraid to do – show us how ugly, and grossly negligent we can become in order to save face, and to avoid admitting something we’d rather not admit: that even those we love are capable of horrendous acts. Backman doesn’t pretend that every wronged person will always achieve justice, but what he does not let the reader forget, is that the guilty are guilty no matter their gender, wealth, talent, or age, and we must endeavour to never let the truth remain hidden.