• 63°

Backman returns to Beartown

“Us Against You,” by Fredrik Backman. Atria. 448 pp. $28.

By Bethanne Patrick

Special To The Washington Post

If Alexander McCall Smith’s and Maeve Binchy’s novels had a love child, the result would be the work of Swedish writer Fredrik Backman. His new book, “Us Against You,” continues the saga of a small place that readers fell in love with in “Beartown” (2017).

But if Beartown is small in size, it’s huge in human drama. With his wry acceptance of foible and failure, Backman combines a singular style with a large and compassionate perspective for his characters.

“Beartown” saw Backman leave behind the apartment-house set of novels that he first became well known for among American book groups — “A Man Called Ove” and “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” — and turn to a place consumed by ice hockey.

The entire population of Sweden’s Beartown is obsessed with the game, its players and their club headed by a local son who made it to the National Hockey League before returning home and running the club nearly into the ground.

Peter Andersson, his wife, Kira, and their daughter and son are back in “Us Against You.” And Beartown continues to struggle on and off the ice, with the aftermath of sexual violence.

A mysterious new coach promises great things, but can Beartown regain its edge against the other local hockey team? Or will the little burg finally collapse beneath the weight of its past and present sins?

If you have no interest in hockey, you might assume you’ll have no interest in this novel. You would be wrong. Backman writes about hockey the way Balzac writes about, say, the French military, meaning that his point lies far from his subject.

Backman’s novels have wide appeal, and for good reason. “Us Against You” takes a lyrical look at how a community heals, how families recover and how individuals grow.

Some readers may find Backman’s quiet attempts at philosophy clumsy, e.g. “Life is a weird thing. We spend all our time trying to manage different aspects of it, yet we are largely shaped by aspects of it we cannot control.” But others will appreciate being allowed into this indefatigable place. In “Us Against You,” it’s really all for one, and one for all.

Patrick is the editor, most recently, of “The Books That Changed My Life: Reflections by 100 Authors, Actors, Musicians and Other Remarkable People.”

About Post Lifestyles

Visit us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SalPostLifestyle/ and Twitter @postlifestlyes for more content

email author More by Post

Comments

Crime

Blotter: Rockwell man arrested on felony drug, breaking and entering charges

Local

Rep. Amber Baker discusses legislative session during Rowan Democrats breakfast meeting

Local

Thousands of locals, out-of-towners gather for a groovy time at annual Hippie Fest

News

N.C. Zoo ready for expansion if lawmakers OK funding

Education

RSS budgeting for tens of millions in federal COVID-19 relief funding

East Spencer

‘Back in full swing’ for the spring: East Spencer community gathers for food, fun and fellowship at Spring Fest

Local

Rowan native Lingle among those honored with NC Military Veterans Hall of Fame induction

Business

Former pro baseball player, Tar Heel standout Russ Adams finds new career with Trident Insured

Education

Profoundly gifted: Salisbury boy finishing high school, associates degree at 12

Local

Cheerwine Festival will stick to Main Street, stay away from new park in September

Lifestyle

Celebrating Rowan County’s early cabinetmakers

Education

Service Above Self announces youth challenge winners

Business

Economic Development Commission creates search tool for people seeking Rowan County jobs

Columns

Amy-Lynn Albertson: Arts and Ag Farm Tour set for June 5

High School

High school baseball: Mustangs top Falcons on strength of hurlers

Business

Biz Roundup: Application process now open for Rowan Chamber’s 29th Leadership Rowan class

Sports

Keith Mitchell leads McIlroy, Woodland by 2 at Quail Hollow

Nation/World

States scale back vaccine orders as interest in shots wanes

Nation/World

Major US pipeline halts operations after ransomware attack

News

NC budget dance slowed as GOP leaders differ on bottom line

News

Judge limits footage that family can see of deputy shooting

Coronavirus

People receiving first dose of COVID-19 vaccine grows by less than 1%

Education

Rowan-Salisbury Schools brings Skills Rowan competition back to its roots

Business

Weak jobs report spurs questions about big fed spending