“Sometimes life doesn’t let you choose your battles. Just the company you keep.”Fredrik Backman, Beartown

Disclaimer: Beartown contains violence, including sexual violence, bullying, locker room talk, and crude jokes. Backman does not portray any of these as commendable or appropriate, but the way that they are described in the novel may trigger traumatic memories.


Beartown is a novel by Swedish author Fredrik Backman. The novel follows a nearly desolate town in which the only thing worthy of praise is a high school hockey team, known as the A team. The town believes that if the A team can reach the national championships, their unemployment and social circumstances will resolve. After a town member becomes the victim of a horrible act of violence, the team members, their families, and the entirety of Beartown must choose a side and decide who they are and what they stand for. 

Words Are Not Small Things

If there’s anything that conveys Backman’s point the best, it’s this phrase: words are not small things. Backman primarily explores relationships between characters based on things that are said and implied. Relationships between teammates, unrequited crushes, family members, and best friends, among others, have entire chapters devoted to them. It’s a simple story on its surface, but Backman thrives in simplicity. All of his previous works (which I highly recommend), such as A Man Called Ove or My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, are relationship and character driven with simple plots and complicated emotions. 

Beartown is by no means the best book ever written, but Backman’s talent for storytelling and character development make it a worthwhile read. Beware, the first few chapters are a bit bland, but the novel gets better as it progresses. Perhaps you will think this novel is nothing more than fake deep fodder or it’s too narratively simple for its own good, but I doubt you will walk away from reading it without feeling something, and at the end of the day, I subscribe to the belief that feeling something is better than feeling numb and apathetic. I hope that some of you will give this novel, and its sequel, a try, even if it doesn’t end up being your particular cup of tea.

Saranya Kasinathuni is a second-year from Glen Allen, Virginia and is (hopefully) majoring in Public Health*. She joined the Wash in the spring of 2019. Saranya spends much of her free time watching Netflix and feeling the passage of time. Outside of the Wash, she’s involved in Madison House and Shakespeare on the Lawn, so sometime next semester she will beg all of you to come to see Twelfth Night. Be prepared. 

*She’s currently waitlisted for this major. Why is applying for majors a thing? Who knows? Why do people voluntarily drink kombucha? The world is a mystery.