Atria. Apr. 2017. 336p. tr. from Swedish by Neil Smith. ISBN 9781501160769. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781501160783. F
Backman (Britt Marie Was Here) expands his quirky character base in his latest novel, which once again takes place in a remote Swedish town. Bjornstad, or Beartown, is an ice hockey town like many small American communities are football towns: no bigger event occurs than home games, where the good cheer of the supporting fans, former players, and sponsors, known as "The Pack," sometimes flares into violence against rivals. As the local youth team snags a possible chance at winning a junior championship, the narrative follows a cross-section of citizens. In their struggles with modern life, these dozen or so individuals face challenges, make decisions, and frequently surprise the reader. Backman's sketchy style always leaves his audience wanting more explanation, but he successfully draws a community portrait that manages to be both unique and universal. There is enough hockey action to satisfy sports fans and plenty of material for group discussion.
VERDICT Another solid offering from best-selling Swedish author Backman, with many parallels for American readers and small towns everywhere. [See Prepub Alert, 11/7/16.]
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