Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Rating:           10

General Rating:  A hat trick! This is the third ten I’ve given Fredrik Backman. Appropriately, it’s a hockey story. Backman keeps outdoing himself.

Skip factor:  Another one where I skipped nothing. Not a word.

Favorite line: “It doesn’t take a lot to be able to let go of your child. It takes everything.”

Who should read:  Anyone—especially members of athletic families.

Summary: People in Beartown live and breathe hockey, so when the deteriorating little town realizes their junior ice hockey team has the talent to win the national semi-finals, residents experience a sense of revival. Then tragedy strikes. One of the team’s members is accused of a violent act. And it isn’t just any team member. It is the best player and son of the team’s biggest sponsor.

This isn’t simply a story about hockey. It’s the story of a town, of friendship, of right and wrong. Quietly, Beartown highlights the differences between being raised female versus male. And loudly, it touches the subject of worshipping male athletes to a point where some people allow the line between right and wrong to fade.

This book makes a reader question love and loyalty. When is it good? And when is it errant?

Characters:  He’s done it again, had me loving multiple characters. Before I reached page 127, I knew I would rate this book a ten. But on that page, when Kira says, “Oh Fatima, I should be asking if I could sit next to you,” I realized Backman had me falling in love with characters all over again. Like a repeat of A Man Called Ove and Anxious People, one by one they captured my heart.

All of Beartown’s characters are quirky, interesting, and deep. I loved Maya, Ana, Sune, and Benji from their introductions. I fell head-over-heels for Ramona on page 352 and Amat on page 353. Then as if I wasn’t close enough to the end and all out of affection, I fell in love with Bobo on page 374, and Jeanette and Adri on 393 and 394.

There were other characters who had defining moments, like Tails and Kira. You’ll love the masses.

Writing:  The writing is magnificent. Backman’s writing in A Man Called Ove and Anxious People was wonderful, but this book? He’s outdone himself. Never say this author can’t write a better book. He keeps turning them out.

Read this author again?  Absolutely. I am patiently awaiting the arrival of Us Against You and Britt-Marie was Here.  And since I’m a digital-book junkie, you know it’s my favorite author when I order a paperback. They’ll be dog-eared, highlighted, and worn from use.

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, Dream Wide Awake, and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a sixth-sense paranormal element, and two ChickLit novels Friends Who Move Couches and Don’t Mind Me, I Came with the House. Many of her novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here.

Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Rating:           10

General Rating:  Finally! A book that makes sense out of the senselessness of anxiousness. I LOVED this book and give it a ten—and I don’t hand tens out easily. This will go down as one of my all-time favorites. The writing is magnificent; the characters, irresistibly lovable; and the storyline, hilarious at times and teaching at others.

Skip factor:  Not. One. Word.

Favorite line: “Do you know what the worst thing about being a parent is? That you’re always judged by your worst moments. You can do a million things right, but if you do one single thing wrong you’re forever that parent…”

Who should read: If you like fabulous writing in laugh-out-loud books or outlandish stories with quirky characters, you’ll love this.  And if you’re anxious, you’ll love. And if you’re an idiot, you won’t be able to put down.

Summary:  This story is about a bridge. And life’s puzzle pieces. Simply, a boy attempts to save a man’s life but the man jumps off a bridge to his death. Later, the boy does save a girl from ending her life on that same bridge, but the boy’s never able to forgive himself for not being able to save the man. He grows up to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a good cop. And a good person. If not an anxious person.

Enter a tired, anxious, idiotic bank robber who has two children, is divorced, has been fired, and needs $6,500 for rent.

When the bank robber—who robs a bank with no money—ends up at an apartment “open house” near this bank, which sits across from the infamous bridge, the lives of eight anxious people converge. The bank robber holds a businesswoman, gay couple (one pregnant), retired couple, realtor, and a little old lady—the worst hostages ever—captive while sorting out what to do before the police storm the building.

What happens in that apartment is quirky, strange, unbelievable, believable, and so puzzling that readers won’t put the pieces together until nearly the final page. It’s one of those ten thousand piecers you have to be patient snapping together, but trust me, in the end, you’ll find Backman has assembled a beautiful picture.

Characters:  Very rarely do I grow attached to two or three characters in a book. Here, I loved eleven characters and a few of their deceased relatives (and friends). Need I say more? Who loves a dozen people in one book? They all had distinct personalities, were anxious, and yes, they were idiots—the good kind.

Storyline:  There is a madness to this storyline, which you might find annoyingly confusing at times, but you MUST hang in there and piece this one together slowly. Wait for it. The story is so much more than a tale of anxious idiots as it professes to be. This book tells of the essence of humans. The individuality and likeness of people.

They’ll be a point when you think, huh? But wait for it. Wait for pieces to start snapping into place.

You may need time to warm up to this one. My friend Joanne had to put it down. She said the anxious people were making her anxious. (Go figure.) She’s going back to read it now and won’t be sorry.

Writing:  I loved the writing of Backman’s novel, A Man Called Ove, but this book? The writing is magnificent. I highlighted so many sentences and bookmarked so many pages, my Kindle nearly overloaded. I’m heading off toward Bear Town and intend on reading everything Backman ever wrote or will write.

Read this author again?  Absolutely.

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is anxious. She is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, Dream Wide Awake, and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a sixth-sense paranormal element, and two ChickLit novels Friends Who Move Couches and Don’t Mind Me, I Came with the House. Many of her novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Follow her on Instagram, TwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.