Beartown shows a different side to the writing capability of Frederik Backman. It still features community as a large character, but in this case we are speaking about a community larger than the ones his books have inhabited before. The story line is more complicated and there are more moving parts. Subject matter too, is darker, more byzantine and he challenges himself in trying to see multiple sides to the same equations. The European title for this book was The Scandal, which speaks more clearly to the story at hand than the Beartown title selected for the North American audience. Beartown is a town on the edge of the forest. We assume it is in Sweden where Backman lives, but the book never clarifies. Beartown was a successful town for many generations until the forest industry changed as did many other things making it difficult for smaller towns to survive. The multiple story lines involve a town in decline, clear lines of haves and have-nots, the inherent hierarchy involved with organized sports, the individual challenges of everyday life, and then thrown on top of it all is a sexual assault right in the middle of everyone and everything. The sexual assault puts everything into stark focus as the towns individuals begin grappling with issues of friendship vs loyalty, seeing right from wrong, and choosing paths of courage and integrity versus one of giving in to fear and social pressures. As in all of his books, the reader becomes engaged with the story, feeling present in the drama as opposed to viewing it from the outside perspective of the reader. Chalk this up as another winner from Backman.
–Brad Smith, Paulina Springs Books, Sisters, OR