Fredrik Backman: You’ve left me drained, almost completely bereft of words. This is a novel, unlike any of your others, yet it’s so full of heart and emotion that we the readers know emphatically that it is yours. And after the last words have sunk into my soul, I can emphatically say, thank you! This one is to be treasured.
Now, what can I possibly say about this story, without giving it away?
Beartown is a town that eats, sleeps and goes to bed thinking about one thing: Hockey. Hockey is what makes this town tick. Vibrate. Come Alive. Beartown, and its residents wouldn’t be a community without it. Every person, every family pins their hearts on the Junior Boy’s Hockey team and its inhabitants have nothing left. It’s a huge cross for these kids to bear (no pun intended) and sometimes, well, something or someone has to break. Sadly, strength and resilience give way to anger and pain, leaving no stone unturned, yet that little bear inside those who’ve been dealt the most blows, refuses to give up.
Whether or not you like Hockey, I can almost assure you that it will grow on you after reading this. And if you know someone who plays? Well, you will understand the drive and the desire better than a lot of us. But the raw human emotion that is dripping from each and every page of this novel? You will all feel that. Fredrik Backman evokes it from each and every reader and here, he does so in a way that he has never done before. And I am truly honored and extremely grateful to have experienced it.
A huge thank you to NetGalley, Atria Books and the amazing Fredrik Backman for giving me this ARC in exchange for an honest review. It has been a privilege.
Published on NetGalley and Goodreads on 2/16/17.
Us Against You
Some of my favorite people, live in one of the most memorable of towns and they wear their hearts on their sleeves. Most however, wear their hearts on their jerseys. Their Hockey Jerseys that is. They used to be all the same. Then something happened. Something bad. And now Beartown and all of its residents are divided. Now it’s Bear v. Bull: Beartown v. Hed. And their hearts, as well as ours have been torn apart. “Us Against You.”
Peter Andersson’s life has been defined by Hockey. Being the GM of the Beartown team is all he knows. Even though he and his family lost almost everything last year, hockey was the one thing he could count on, till now. When he gets a second chance to save his team, Peter is relieved and then anxious, for nothing is as it seems. Politics has invaded Beartown, the Hockey team and Peter’s life. Which one is strong enough to survive?
Beartown is a place where Hockey rules. Always has, always will:
It’s a simple game, if you strip away all of the crap surrounding it and just keep the things that made us love it in the first place. Everyone gets a stick. Two nets. Two Teams. “Us Against You.”
For the last year, twelve year-old Leo Andersson has sat on the sidelines watching his family fall apart. First Maya and now his parents. The time for sitting and watching is over. Now is the time for action.
Maya and Ana are the best of friends. As long as they have each other, they can survive anything.
Beartown Hockey has received a new lease on life. A new coach has taken over, a coach who wants the best players. Players we know and love who have everything it takes to win and who love their town. Benji, Amat, Bobo and Vidar (the new star goalie with a bad temper and a big heart). Benji is now the Captain of the team and is responsible for everyone else. Benji, whose pain is the most palpable. Benji, whose story breaks me in two. Amat is the fastest player on the ice, no one can catch him now, nor will they ever be able to. Bobo loves hockey, but he loves his mother more and is the best son she could ever ask for.
For the last year, I have carried so many of these characters with me. Ramona (owner of the Bearskin Pub), Amat and Benji. My Benji. I just love him. I have wanted and needed to know that he was ok every second of every day, wondering, worrying, waiting. Reading both “Beartown” and “Us Against You,” I have felt Benji’s angst, fear and pain, it seeped in my veins and took over. “Us Against You” made me feel a myriad of emotions. It made me anxious – nerves endings completely raw, scared and sick to my stomach, and just a complete sobbing mess, many times over. Fredrik Backman makes you feel that. Time and again. He makes you feel every single thing his characters are feeling (whether it’s “Ove,” “Britt-Marie” or my Benji). To me, Benji and all of the other characters in this book are real. I consider most of them my friends and in case it’s not obvious, my heart bleeds Bear.
“Us Against You” is the sequel to Fredrik Backman’s “Beartown” which was one of my top two reads of last year, with Backman being my absolute favorite author. In order to get the full background into the characters, I suggest reading that book first. Though this novel started out a little slow, it takes off soon enough and delivers in a way that only Backman can. “Us Against You” is a sequel with heart and it stole mine immediately. I look forward to it grabbing yours in exactly the same way.
A huge thank you to Ariele Friedman at Atria / Simon & Schuster for providing me with an ARC of this novel to read and review. You made my year! Thank you also to NetGalley and the amazing Fredrik Backman. I love your characters Mr. Backman. Benji and Britt-Marie? Well, I hold them both very close to my heart.
Published on Goodreads, Twitter and Instagram on 3.18.18.