December 2022 Book Review | "The Winners"
The last of Fredrik Backman’s Beartown trilogy, “The Winners” is a spectacular literary hat trick and Backman, an MVP.
In 2016 Fredrik Backman took readers through the cold, dark Swedish forest to the small towns of Beartown and Hed. Their mutual passion, or obsession, with local hockey formed the backdrop for intense interpersonal dynamics, victories and tragedies and above all, inspiring life lessons.
The story continued a year later with “Us Against You” which took the characters farther and emotions deeper. It has been a five year wait for the culmination of the trilogy. “The Winners” picks up the story two and a half years after readers first heard the scrape of skates in the Beartown ice rink.
If you haven’t already read the first two books, I suggest you do. If you have read them, you already know the characters are unforgettable, but it still wouldn’t hurt to do a quick review.
Backman is a master of setting up suspenseful scenes. He doesn’t save cliffhangers for the very end of the story, he sets up targets and takes aim throughout it. He warns that a specific terrible thing is going to happen. He then puts several characters in the cross hairs of a fist, a speeding car or a bullet and then one by one gives them the all clear -- except for the last one.
The cast is a masterpiece of character development; diverse and interesting yet so relatable and real. His characters celebrate and grieve, love and hate, live and die like authentic people we have known or have been. Even the most obscure person plays a critical role in the unfolding and the outcome of the story. Even simple lives, in a simple place can be extremely complicated. Even when you win, sometimes you lose.
There are times to hold your breath, afraid for what the next sentence or paragraph will bring. There are times to gasp for breath, training with a desperate Amat or running with Johnny and Hannah toward the fire.
Violent battles are fought with mother nature and with human nature. At any given time, this author can take your breath away with a scene or even a word-- what happens or what doesn’t happen.
“The Winners”, along with the first two books in the series, can be found in our public libraries. For KPCW this is Barb Bretz with your monthly book review.