By Alexis Mercer
It has been an uncharacteristically long time since I wrote my last book review. I have two excuses. The first is most significant.
I am an Olympic Junky. Everyone in my family will tell you it is true. And I know curling is all the rage right now, but I was a curling fan before it was cool. So now that CNBC covers it basically 24 hours a day during the Olympics, I can’t stop.
All the sports get me. My oldest son has caught on to the Olympic fever. We would sit there for hours (I swear this is the only time the kids are allowed to watch tv for endless hours) cheering relentlessly for the USA. I realized I may have spurred an unhealthy perspective when Lindsey Vonn failed to get the gold and Jack ran to his room devastated. But I turned it around by discussing just how amazing her bronze was and that being on the podium was a true honor. She is like the grandma of downhill skiing after all.
So while one or two days I did try to pick up a book and read, I realized my efforts were futile. If I knew there was a sport being covered, I had to watch. It was enough that I had to work during the day and missed all that time!
My second reason, which is not nearly as fun, is the other book I was attempting to read for a review. It was Fire and Fury. I had been asked to write a review for it being that it was a hot off the press topic. But I couldn’t do it. Even after the Olympics were over. I tried and tried to get into it. All of my own political beliefs aside, I had a hard time with such a negative book.
It was Ken DeLaat in one of our meetings to discuss Near North Now and its happenings who suggested that I set the book down and let it go. After I picked myself up off the floor (I am one of those who will read to the bitter end of a book I really don’t like just because I feel it’s a tragedy to let a book go in the middle), I realized that his advice was gold. He suggested that because I read for pleasure, forcing myself to read a book that was bringing me down would defeat the purpose of the task.
He’s a wise man.
Because two days later I picked up Bear Town by Fredrik Backman and couldn’t set it down. My love of literature had returned.
Bear Town is the name of the tiny little village in the forest that has seen better days. People are moving away, factory jobs are shutting down, and winter is present ¾ of the year, allowing very little sunlight to warm the town’s thoughts and bodies.
The only thing it has going for it is its junior hockey team. The team has the weight of the town riding on the shoulders of the 16 and 17 year olds who play for it. Win the national finals and the town can be rebuilt around a new hockey rink, school and winning team. Lose and the whole town may collapse.
“Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead, and pulled the trigger.
Page 1. As if I could set it down when those words echo throughout my brain on page one.
The characters, though there are many of them and every once in a while I had to go back to remind myself who someone was, are vibrant and realistic. Every word and action of each character I believed as not only what that person would do in the book, but what a person could do in those situations in real life. They were startlingly realistic.
Bear Town was just what I needed: a truly fascinating tale with ups, downs, twists, turns, raw emotion and genuine characters. A novel that would transport me to another time and place through its carefully selected word choice and attention to detail.
If you do choose this book to read, be prepared to lose sleep. You won’t be able to set it down.
And in another two years when the summer Olympics come around and you haven’t seen a book review for 18 days or more, you’ll know why.
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