‘Beartown’ Is The ‘Friday Night Lights’ Of Swedish Hockey

Clear Ice, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose

The first thing anyone says when recommending the cult TV series Friday Night Lights is “it’s not really about football.” Beartown, by the popular Swedish novelist Fredrik Backman of A Man Called Ove fame, isn’t really about hockey. Except when it is.

The story begins with down-on-its luck Beartown caught up in the excitement of a junior ice-hockey team’s national semifinal game that’ll save the town if they win. Hopes and dreams riding on the shoulders of teenage boys is a story we’ve seen many times before, as is the violent act that soon tears the town apart and tests friendships, family bonds and team loyalty. Backman tells this tale using the expected villains and heroes–the immigrant star player, the grizzled coach, the secretly gay defenseman—so it feels a lot like Hoosiers On Ice, but he still keeps the reader compelled and invested to the end. If anyone makes a movie of this, it’ll definitely be something dads and sons bond over.

I did grow tired of Backman’s lofty quotes like, “Everyone has a thousand wishes before a tragedy, but just one afterward” and some of the final character resolutions felt a bit rushed and incomplete. There were also too many sticks and pucks and front office details for my taste, but in the grand scheme of things, I guess that’s okay. Beartown isn’t really about hockey.

Washington Square Press; Reprint edition

(February 2018)

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Wendi Aarons

Wendi Aarons is the creator of @paulryangosling. She writes the USWeekly Fashion Police column and comic essays for McSweeneys. Mostly she writes notes that she leaves on cars parked by assholes. She’s lived in Austin, Texas for 20 years and hopes you don’t move there.

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