Simon & Schuster (US)
|Pages||418 pp (US)|
|Followed by||Us Against You|
Beartown (original title in Swedish: Björnstad) is a novel by Swedish writer Fredrik Backman. The novel, noted as hockey literature, centers on a declining youth hockey team in a small town. The story follows the events leading up to the rape of 15-year-old girl Maya Andersson by the star junior hockey player Kevin Erdahl, and the consequences for Maya and Kevin, the players, their families, friends, and the community which has a long-standing reputation as a hockey town. It is the first book in the Beartown series, followed by Us Against You.
Peter Andersson, in his forties, is the general manager of the ice hockey club in Beartown, a small town located 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. He married Kira, a lawyer from a big city, and their first-born son, Isak, died when he was just a baby. Peter and Kira 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 practices his skating techniques and 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 teenagers from the community. At the party, many of the teenagers are drinking and indulging in marijuana use 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. Eventually, Maya and Kevin sneak off to an upstairs bedroom to make out. Maya resists Kevin's advances, and he proceeds to rape 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 has had a crush on Kevin for some time and is devastated by his attack. She struggles to cope for a week, then finally tells her parents what happened. Kira is enraged. Because Peter is the 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 an eye-witness. Maya continues to suffer distress and decides she must either kill herself or kill Kevin to be relieved of the pain. 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 steals 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, Maya 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.
- Maya Andersson: a 15-year-old girl who loves playing the guitar and has mixed feelings about hockey
- Kevin Erdahl: an outstanding young hockey player who is the star of his junior team
- Ana: Maya's best friend
- Kira and Peter: Maya's parents. Kira is a lawyer and Peter is the General Manager of the hockey club
- Kevin's parents: Neither parent is named in the book
- Amat: a speedy underage player who is promoted to play with Kevin's junior team
- Fatima: Amat's mother
- Zacharias: Amat's friend, a bullied boy with lots of stored up anger
- Lifa: Amat's other friend, also Zacharias' friend
- Benji: Kevin's best friend
- David: the coach of Kevin and Benji's junior team
- Bobo, Filip and William Lyt: team-mates of Kevin and Benji
- Sune: coach of the senior team
- Ramona: proprietess of the Bearskin, the local pub
- Maggan Lyt: William's mother
- Jeanette: a teacher at the local high school
- "Tails": one of the sponsors of the hockey club
- Ann-Katrin and Hog: Bobo's parents
- Adri, Katia and Gaby: Benji's older sisters
- Leo: Kira and Peter's son
- The unnamed president of the hockey club
- The unnamed bass player who becomes Benji's friend
In 2020, a five-episode miniseries adaptation called Björnstad was added to HBO Nordic. The series premiered as Beartown on HBO in North America on February 22, 2021. It received generally positive reviews from critics.
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