Beartown by Fredrik Backman Book Review
The sporting world is a fascinating yet complicated platform, one that individual athletes and teams alike use to compete against each other in order to proclaim predominance over others in their field of play. Whether it be a Saturday night house league hockey game with only a few parents watching, or the Stanley Cup finals with thousands of fans, the players desire one thing and one thing alone- a gratifying victory. Hockey, in particular, has unified an attractive yet economically struggling Swedish town called Beartown. Frederick Backman sets his story in this dim community that searches for success through their Junior Boys Hockey Team. The boys are fierce and flourishing young athletes. One being the shortest and youngest member, named Amat. A courageous boy having arisen from obscurity due to his special skating talents, he discovers the hard way that with fame comes a loss of identity. In Beartown, Frederick Backman demonstrates how when one rises in status and gains attention in the community, they develop new relationships while losing sight of their identity and where they all started from.
First of all, with new publicity and importance comes several new faces to see, many more hands to shake, as well as various more conversations to be had. In short, countless new connections begin, however they come with a substantial cost, departing from longer and older relationships. Amat has risen up and has a newfound influence on the Beartown community, with many comments and remarks about his determination on the ice. Grasping eyes and winning the hearts of the entire community with his achievements, Amat begins creating strong new connections and new alliances with the older players of the Junior Hockey League. However, with all these new relationships in Amat’s world, he appears to be neglecting his relationship with his older childhood friends. For example Zacharias, who has been one of Amat’s best friends for a considerable amount of time, is seeing his friendship with Amat going estranged. Along with Lifa, who had quit hockey when he was younger because he could not handle the locker room banter. It states in the novel, “Lifa and Zacharias were never friends in the same way, only through Amat, so when Amat was moved up to the juniors and chose a different life, everything disappeared for Zacharias”(308). Amat deliberately sacrifices his relationship with his friends with the intention of freeing his mother, Fatima, from her physically demanding job. Amat dreams of becoming a professional Hockey player for that reason, and so he risks his friends' relationships for his mother's freedom. Through Amat’s sacrifice, he demonstrates his loyalty and love for his mother.
Nevertheless, as Amat makes his way up in his Hockey career and gains attention from the community, he begins to lose sight of his true identity. He forgets about his goals and his true intentions. In the novel it states, “Grownups cheer and applaud when they see him, a few of the older girls from school shout his name, Bobo gives him a hug, Benji ruffles his hair, and everyone wants to shake his hand”(144). Amat loves the idea of being one of them, being one of the bears of Beartown. He gets caught up in the fame and forgets about where he started from, who he was, and what he wanted. In the novel, it states, “Zacharias will never ask Amat if he forgot about him or simply didn’t care. But one of them goes, and one stays behind. And nothing will ever be quite the same again”(148). Amat is caught up in the victory of the game and desires to celebrate with the players, therefore he attends the Party and forgets about his best friend. Zacharias then feels ashamed and uncomfortable asking Amat if he forgot about him. Through the victory of the game and all the popularity, Amat loses sight of the people closest to him. He portrays a sense of betrayal towards Zacharias. Amat demonstrates a desire for attention and fame, he values the recognition of the community of Beartown, rather than the affection of his friends and family.
Next, through the development of new friends and alliances, he demonstrates a sense of determination towards his mother. In the novel it states, “Amat has never been as tall as the other players, has never been as muscular as them, has never shot as hard. But no one in the town can catch him”(9). Amat lacked the strength, the height, and the friends to push him through, but he used the one thing he had left, his speedy skating talents, he used this to his advantage to make his way up in his Hockey dream. He formed new friends as a means of rising higher in order to achieve his ultimate goal. He continuously watched players from the Junior Hockey Team, like Kevin, pick up their skills. He practiced for hours to perfect his talents in order to make the Junior Team. He knew before doing what he did that his best friends would separate and he was the one thing holding them together, but he was determined to give his mother a better life, despite the obstacles that were thrown in his way. Every time he fell he got back up, he never let anyone control him, he pushed through until he had shown everyone what he was capable of. He portrayed perseverance in order to become the best.
In the novel, Frederick Backman portrays through Amat, that a strong culture in societies and communities can have a changing effect on individuals. Through the intensity of Hockey in Beartown, Amat became greatly involved in the Junior Hockey League. He pushed his way up from nothing, even though he lacks the height, and the strength, he uses his speed to push to the top. Backman also demonstrates through Amat, that despite the effect that cultural differences may have on an individual, family is the one thing you always put first. Amat first shows this when he first decides to play hockey with the intention of giving his mother a better life. He fights through the insults and the laughter because he had a dream to become a professional hockey player and he intended on fulfilling that dream. Peter says to Amat in the novel, “You must be the only teenager in the world who gets told off by his mom for cleaning too much”(143). Amat loves his mother so much to the point where he does her job sometimes and doesn't tell her, all to make her life easier. The novel demonstrates the relationship between parents and children and compares it to the relationship between friends.
In conclusion, Backman demonstrates in Beartown how fame and glory can cause an individual to lose sight of their identity because of the development of new relationships. In the novel, Amat is portrayed as a loving, and determined son, while at the same time a disloyal friend. The novel demonstrates the strong and devoted relationship between a parent and child, and the difference between friendships. Backman suggests that.