You guys! I've found my newest number one book of 2017. It's so impossibly hard to write a review about a book you love. I wish I could just say "read this Beartown," and you would, and you've love it too. But I'll try a little harder than that. First, this one might not be for everyone. Perhaps the very sensitive or folks with certain triggers would struggle with this book's subject matter. But for those of you looking for a book that's written better than almost 100% of contemporary fiction today, this is your book. For those looking for believable characters that the author knows exceptionally well, this is your book. For those who need a book that makes you feel by showing you how characters, indeed a whole town, feels, this is your book. For those looking for a book that challenges you, enlightens you, and lets you squirm in the place it puts you, this is your book. For those looking for a masterfully-told story, where the plotting is impeccable, this is your book. For those of you looking for a long book you can sink your teeth into but is also a real page turner, this is your book. For those who need a book that checks all the boxes, a book about hope and redemption, a losing town and a winning team, the dangers of youth, the impossibilities of parenthood, how kids try to protect parents, how parents can't protect kids, this is your book. I can't think of anything I didn't like about this book. I do question this book coming out in time for summer, though, and not just because it's about ice hockey. There is nothing carefree or frivolous about this read. I hesitate to give you a plot synopsis, because the unhurried unraveling of the story is part of the genius of the writing. I'll say this: it's about a small town (I believe it takes place in Sweden, but it could be Anywhere Cold, USA) that is struggling with unemployment and a broken economy. All this town has is their pride and a winning hockey team that they've built from the ground up over the last decade. Hockey is life in this town, and the future survival of the town depends on the team winning. But something terrible happens to tears things apart. I will say that there is a violent act committed against a teenage girl, but it is not graphic. The book is more about the lead-up and after affects of this act. It is such a smart book, deftly weaving a whole towns-worth of characters and their goodness and flaws. If you've read other books by Backman, such as A Man Called Ove or Britt-Marie Was Here, you'll recognize the writing style, but the whimsical tone is not in this one. As much as I loved Ove and Britt-Marie, this departure is the only way he could have told this story. You just have to read this one. My rating: 5 stars.
I also finished Philip Levine's final book of poetry, The Last Shift. I enjoyed it. There's not much to say. Some of the poems I didn't love, of course, but there were a couple that really stood out. Levine is a standby for me. His poetry is honest and straightforward and generally about the working man, which always reminds me of my dad. My rating: 3 stars.
I've also been reading:
My wonderful experience with At Home in the World last month made me hungry for another travel memoir, so I finally picked up Anthony Doerr's Four Seasons in Rome. (He's the author of All the Light We Cannot See). I'm enjoying it so far.
And I'm having fun looking through The Dogist, street photos of dogs made popular on the Instagram feed of the same name.
This is your typical contemporary fiction complete with boy somewhere on the autism spectrum (though, true to form, it never uses the word). I'm not loving it.