In his fourth novel, Fredrik Backman displays once again an almost omnipotent insight into human nature. This time around, the author of Britt-Marie Was Here spreads out his story among the citizens of a small town whose pride is wholly invested in their hockey team. From teenagers to the elderly, Backman chisels each in fantastic detail, illuminating the deepest recesses of their souls while touching the deepest recesses of the readers'.

Beartown has been slowly deteriorating due to unemployment, but the city's promising junior-level hockey team could be everyone's salvation. If the Bears can pull out a championship, there is talk of a hockey academy and a new arena, and that could translate into reasons for people to move to Beartown. The hopes of a whole city are riding on a team of teenage boys, until a fateful night changes everything.

Beartown carries a darker tone than Backman's previous novels, but still possesses his charming wit and delightfully colorful perspective on humanity. His dialogue flows with an authentic and natural rhythm that reflects a keenly perceptive ear--whether from a teenage girl with musical aspirations, a young man coming to terms with his identity or a seasoned coach facing the end of his career. Backman offers his audience a compassionate view of their lives through concise but powerful imagery.

One needn't be a fan of hockey to appreciate Beartown. It's merely Backman's vehicle to themes of loyalty, love and community. He will drive the Beartown Bears into the hearts of all his readers, sports aficionados or not. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

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