Book Review for “The Winners (Beartown #3)” by Fredrik Backman.
Summary: “Two years have passed since the events that no one wants to think about. Everyone has tried to move on, but there’s something about this place that prevents it. The residents continue to grapple with life’s big questions: What is a family? What is a community? And what, if anything, are we willing to sacrifice in order to protect them? As the locals of Beartown struggle to overcome the past, great change is on the horizon. Someone is coming home after a long time away. Someone will be laid to rest. Someone will fall in love, someone will try to fix their marriage, and someone will do anything to save their children. Someone will submit to hate, someone will fight, and someone will grab a gun and walk towards the ice rink. So what are the residents of Beartown willing to sacrifice for their home? Everything..”
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Fiction; Settings: Contemporary; Sweden – fictional towns of Hed and Beartown; Other Categories: Novel, Sequel, Sports – Hockey, Humor, Translation.
When Backman first published Beartown, no one knew that it would turn into a trilogy. In fact, I wonder if he even realized he hadn’t finished telling the story back then. But when the second book came out, I think most of his faithful fans realized that Backman still wasn’t ready to leave these rival towns when we got to the end of the novel. Considering the length of this last book (684 pages in the Kindle edition), apparently Backman had a good deal left to tell.
Now, regular readers of Backman know that he loves to leave breadcrumbs. Usually, that means hints or clues to what could point to one outcome or another (you know, like with a mystery). However, in Backman’s case, he actually likes to leave little tidbits that foreshadow something we will see happen in the book, and in some cases, after the story will probably have ended. To be honest, I don’t usually like foreshadowing in novels, but I forgive Backman because of how he leaves these scraps on the tables. He doesn’t do the classic cliché of “little did he/she know then that…” but rather he says things like “that was the last time” and “as they would do until they grew old together” and things like that. At one point, Backman actually adds a poem that someone would later write about one of the characters. Now, I’m unsure why I accept this in Backman but cringe when I see it done by other writers. Perhaps I’m more forgiving because his bits of foreshadowing are so brief and fit so well inside the narrative, that they don’t stand out like sore thumbs. Maybe I’m more likely to overlook them because Backman gets me so involved in the story. Or maybe, Backman makes me so invested in these characters’ lives that I want to know what will happen to them even before I read how and why it happens.
Either way, yeah… this is one hell of gripping read. Frankly, I was a touch taken aback by some of the fights that took place in this novel. But like your normal car wreck, I couldn’t look away, nor stop myself reading, even when he describes some fairly violent things happening. Of course, if you know anything about hockey, or have read the other two books in this series, you have to expect this to a certain extent. Thankfully, there are so many moments that are tender and even funny here that despite the blood and tragedies, you won’t feel like you’re in the middle of a horror story. However, you might mistake it for a bit of a thriller, especially as you get closer to the end of the novel. You see, together with the breadcrumbs and the foreshadowing, Backman hides just enough from the reader to build suspense, even if we have clearly stated clues to what is going to happen. And the thing is, when you know something is coming, you keep looking for it at every turn. Then, when it does happen – well… BANG! That’s exactly what Backman does here. Doesn’t that sound like a thriller to you?
But it isn’t really a thriller. It is, as Backman is famous for doing, a study in human nature and a story that delves into the many faults and assets that are inside each and every one of us. Backman makes no excuses for their weaknesses, and takes no credit for their strengths, he just puts them on the page, and believes with perfect faith that the latter will be the winner against the former. That is probably why we grow to love (and sometimes hate) his characters. That is also why he can make us laugh out loud and cry like babies. Since I found myself doing both, I cannot help but recommend this novel more highly, especially if you’ve read the other two books, and award it a wholehearted five out of five stars.
Atria Books (a division of Simon & Schuster) will be released/released “The Winners (Beartown #3)” by Fredrik Backman on September 27, 2022 (in the US, but on October 4 in the UK and Canada). This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Foyles, The Book Depository UK and Book Depository US (both with free worldwide delivery), Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery UK and Wordery US, Kobo US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website eBooks.com, Booksamillion.com, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for the ARC of this novel via Edelweiss AND NetGalley.
This novel qualifies for the following reading challenges: New Release Challenge (#43).