STAFF PICK: Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Title: Beartown
Author: Fredrik Backman
Narrator: Marin Ireland

Nestled deep within a lush Swedish forest lies a small town experiencing what feels like an inevitable death. The factory workers who founded the town once had big dreams of Beartown becoming a hockey haven, and with it, an abundance of jobs and a booming economy. But the costs that accompany those dreams are higher than anyone could have anticipated.

The junior ice hockey team is gearing up for the national semi-finals — and they actually have a shot at winning. In one fell swoop, the future of a dying town lies on the shoulders of teenage boys, and in the same breath, threatens to unravel the secrets, violence, and callousness of those we thought we knew, and who we wanted them to be.

Within the first few chapters, Fredrik Backman joined the ranks of being one of my favorite authors. So rarely do I find a book as beautiful as it is devastating, so powerful that I never want it to end, yet so damn satisfied when it does.

Backman’s ability to bring to light the small details about each character, even those in the shadows, allowed me to resonate with the entire town — those who went against the grain, those who created the trauma that ripples throughout, those whose shoes I never hope to be in. In Beartown, no one is unaffected. Everyone’s vulnerability is uncovered, and no small character truly exists in this story.

“small towns need a head start if they’re going to have any chance in the world… people are standing in silent lines with their eyes half opened and their minds half closed, waiting for their electronic punch cards to verify their existence… if they keep quiet, they can hear it in the distance: bang. bang. bang. bang. bang.”

Marin Ireland does a fabulous job of narrating the story in an appropriately moody tone. Her ability to bring out the emotions of the characters transported me into their town, their lives, their dreams, and their demons.













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