Beartown (novel)

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AuthorFredrik Backman
Original titleBjörnstad
TranslatorNeil Smith
PublisherSimon & Schuster (US)
Publication date
2016 (Sweden)
2017 (U.S.)
Media typePrint
Pages418 pp (US)

Beartown (original title in Swedish: Björnstad) is a novel by Fredrik Backman.[1] The novel presents a combination of hockey and literature.[2] The story follows the events leading up to the rape of a 15-year-old girl by a star junior hockey player, and the consequences for the victim, the players, their families, friends, and the community which has a long-standing reputation as a hockey town.[3][4][5]

The book was removed from the reading list of a high school in North Carolina when parents described it as "vulgar" and "graphic".[6]


Peter Andersson, in his forties, is the general manager of the ice hockey club in Beartown, a small city somewhere in Sweden. Peter grew up in Beartown and was a junior hockey star. He went to North America to play in the NHL, but injuries stopped his career short.[7] He married Kira, a lawyer from a big city, and their first-born son, Isak, died when he was just a baby. They decided to return to Beartown, with their other children, Maya and Leo, when Peter was offered the job with the ice hockey club. Kira continued to work as a lawyer in a nearby city. Maya and her best friend, Ana, have different interests, but are devoted to each other. Because Ana lives with her father and her mother has left, Ana spends a lot of time with the Andersson family.

Amat is a 15-year-old who immigrated to Sweden when he was a little boy, with his mother, Fatima. Fatima struggles on the edge of poverty and works as custodian at the arena run by the Beartown ice hockey club. She supports Amat's devotion to ice hockey, and he displays remarkable ice skating speed. He often goes to the rink with Fatima before it opens and works on his skating ability. This catches the attention of Sune, the veteran coach of the A-team, which is the highest level team operated by the Beartown club.

Kevin Erdahl is the star of the Beartown junior team, which consists of players who are 17 years old. Kevin's talent is so outstanding that the entire junior team has been built around him since he was about seven years old. David is the current coach of the junior team, who has moved up to coach the players in each successive age group as Kevin and his cohort have come through. David, Sune, Peter, the president and directors and sponsors of the ice hockey club, all expect Kevin's team to succeed. The novel opens with the team and the community preparing for a key semi-final game. Recognizing that lack of speed is a weakness, Sune and David agree to add Amat to the team as an underage junior to improve their chances. Beartown wins the semi-final, at least partly because the opposing team was not prepared to defend Amat's speed.

On the night of the semi-final victory, Kevin's parents are out of town. This gives Kevin the opportunity to host a big party for his team and many other young persons from the community. At the party, many of the teenagers are drunk or high and the team members boast about having sex with the supportive female fans. Maya and Ana attend the party, but argue about how to enjoy themselves. Maya and Kevin sneak off to an upstairs bedroom to make out. Maya resists Kevin's advances, and he rapes her. Amat, himself drunk and harboring feelings for Maya, stumbles in to witness the rape. Maya takes advantage of Amat's intrusion to free herself from Kevin.

Maya had been attracted to Kevin and is devastated by his attack. She struggles for a week, then finally tells her parents what happened. Kira is enraged. Because Peter is general manager of the hockey club, he appreciates that reporting the crime will remove Kevin from the team and destroy the team's chances in the subsequent game, the final, which is to be held that day. Nevertheless, the family does report the rape and Kevin is taken from the team bus just before it departs for the road trip to the game. The team is not told right away what has happened. They play the final without Kevin and, even though they have a 3-2 lead after two periods, they lose.

The police decide not to prosecute Kevin for the rape because the available evidence is inconclusive, despite Amat's testimony as a witness. Maya continues to suffer distress and decides she must either kill herself or kill Kevin. Because Ana's father is a hunter and Ana has learned about guns from him, Maya asks Ana to teach her how to fire a shotgun. Without telling Ana what she plans, Maya takes a shotgun from Ana's father's gun cabinet and confronts Kevin. Kevin, also torn by the realization of what he has done, complies when Maya orders him to kneel in front of her. Maya then pulls the trigger. But she has not loaded a cartridge into the weapon. Maya reasons that the fear Kevin feels at the moment she pulls the trigger will continue to haunt him for the rest of his life, just as the rape will haunt her.

In the end, the events of the subsequent ten years are sketched out. Kevin eventually finds happiness with a woman. Maya becomes a popular guitarist and plays a concert in the city where Kevin and his wife live.


  1. ^ "KIRKUS REVIEW: BEARTOWN by Fredrik Backman". Retrieved 2020-02-07.
  2. ^ Cowles, Gregory (2017-05-12). "A Different Kind of Sports Novel". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-10-17.
  3. ^ "Dreaming of economic revival in a small Swedish town". Retrieved 2020-02-07.
  4. ^ "REVIEW: 'Beartown,' by Fredrik Backman". Retrieved 2020-02-07.
  5. ^ "In Fredrik Backman's 'Beartown,' hockey rules". Retrieved 2020-02-07.
  6. ^ Duncan, Charles (2018-10-09). "NC school district pulls honors class book called 'vulgar'". The Herald Sun. Retrieved 2019-10-17.
  7. ^ "Beartown (Paperback) A Novel". Retrieved 2019-10-17.