Beartown by Fredrik Backman (432 pages)
A teenage girl reports being raped by the superstar player of the Beartown hockey team on the eve of a championship game. This town defines itself by the wins and losses of their Bears on all fronts, spiritually, emotionally and even economically, and now they must enter the fray without their best player. Predictably, the victim and her family are seen as the villains.
As most of our members are women, it was somewhat surprising that the majority enjoyed this book. Perhaps the fact that this story could have taken place in any remote town in Canada played into it. Or perhaps we just understand the special treatment that elite hockey players like Kevin get from a very young age, enabling him to commit such an act without a shred of guilt or remorse. This is not to say that we condone his behaviour, just that we understand how it happens. Perhaps our collective psyche has a soft spot for young hockey players, given that many of our boys play the game from toddler on up. Oddly enough, our discussion of this book took place within days of the bus crash in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, in which 16 young men died and 13 were seriously injured. The subsequent GoFundMe campaign raised an unprecedented $14 million dollars almost overnight from donors around the world, suggesting that our feelings of interconnectedness through elite athletic performance may not be limited to the Olympics.
As for the writing, I found the characters to be very well developed and believable, winners and losers alike. Typical of any community, there was a smorgasbord of personalities, cliques, and conflicts, and the author deftly exposed and explored the strengths and insecurities of the key characters. I especially loved the bar owner, Ramona. The local watering hole in a small town is often the hub of everything, gossip, politics, wheeling and dealing; and Ramona was privy to all of it. But more importantly, she had the moxie to stare down the businessman bullies and insist on letting justice run its course. Such courage is rare and magnificent to behold, and I just loved her for speaking her truth, the consequences be damned.
Laura Vincent recently settled into retirement, doing a bit of writing, a lot of service and smelling the roses along the way. A plan is afoot to explore Europe on a Eurail Pass – one last great hurrah so to speak.
Favourite book: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Favourite brunch spot: Rocco Restaurant & Bar