Written By: Sophie Archambault
One of my favorite authors of all time is Fredrik Backman. Backman is a Swedish author, but his books are popular internationally and have been published in over forty countries. Backman is probably best known for his novel A Man Called Ove, the story of a curmudgeonly old man whose attempts to off himself are consistently thwarted by neighbors who help him rediscover the beauty of life.
Recently, Backman’s newest book, The Winners, was released in the U.S. It is the third and final installment of his Beartown trilogy, which centers on a small forest town where hockey is the foundation of community. That sounds awful if you are allergic to sports, as I am, but hockey is really just the backdrop for larger interpersonal drama and town politics. Backman handles his characters with such care and gives beautiful insight into human relationships—I do not exaggerate when I say every one of his books has made me cry.
Beartown, published in 2016, focuses on the consequences of a sports-oriented culture that teaches young men they are invincible and deserve anything they want after a violent event shakes the town. The second book, Us Against You, picks up where Beartown leaves off, bringing side characters into the spotlight and introducing a hockey rivalry with a neighboring town. At the end of Us Against You, two key characters leave town, and in The Winners—a full 670-page tome—they return, rediscovering the place that made them, for better or for worse.
I’ve never been disappointed by a Fredrik Backman book and The Winners was no exception. Every character is fully realized in all their complexity, every interaction holds weight. There was sadness in the ending—you know it’s coming from page one—but it was a satisfactory ending to the trilogy. Backman’s books will have you laughing one minute and in tears the next; I can’t recommend them enough.