I would venture to say that it is difficult to find one person who isn't excited for the third installment in the Beartown series. When I heard The Winners was set for publication this year, I could not wait to go back to Beartown and see what Amat, Benji, Ana and Maya were up to. While The Winners was not my favorite book in the series, I enjoyed it and it brought up all the emotions that only these characters can evoke. Taking place over a time frame of two weeks, Beartown and Hed residents will all be rocked to their cores. Published: September 27, 2022
Synopsis (from Goodreads:)
Two years have passed since the events that no one wants to think about. Everyone has tried to move on, but there’s something about this place that prevents it. The residents continue to grapple with life’s big questions: What is a family? What is a community? And what, if anything, are we willing to sacrifice in order to protect them?
As the locals of Beartown struggle to overcome the past, great change is on the horizon. Someone is coming home after a long time away. Someone will be laid to rest. Someone will fall in love, someone will try to fix their marriage, and someone will do anything to save their children. Someone will submit to hate, someone will fight, and someone will grab a gun and walk towards the ice rink.
So, what are the residents of Beartown willing to sacrifice for their home?
Beartown and Hed are at it again, with hockey at its center, but so much more underneath the surface. The Winners has an element of criminal activity where a local reporter is digging into the Beartown hockey club's finances. I thought this was an interesting deviation in the storyline and one that I was personally invested in, being that I work in financial fraud. Along with this storyline, we have Maya and Benji returning from being gone for two years, a new player being recruited to the team, Amat struggling emotionally after losing out on his chance for the NHL, Peter having a mid-life crisis now that he no longer works with Beartown hockey, a kid named Matteo wandering around in a snowstorm and sneaking into people's houses. There's A LOT going on. It is hard to keep it all straight at times, but Backman ends up tying all the loose ends together in a final, dramatic crescendo.
What holds me back from giving this book five stars is the length. We are talking over 600 pages, much of which could be cut out because it was repetitive from the first and second books. Personally, I prefer standalone books to series and that may play into my thoughts on this, but it could have easily been 200-300 pages shorter. I also could have done without the series in general. Beartown is an amazing standalone story. I enjoyed Us Against You and The Winners, but I did not feel like they were necessary to keep the story of these towns going.
Which book in the Beartown series is better? My vote is still, and always will be, the first book, Beartown. Nothing tops that initial story of heart and hockey. The book where I fell in love with Benji and Amat and this little town hidden away in the forest.
"A town isn't just a place where you live, it's a place where you belong."
Other books in the Beartown series:
(Click the title links to read my full reviews.)