Beartown by Fredrik Backman, translated by Neil Smith [in Library Journal]
Swedish author Fredrik Backman’s novels tackle serious subjects – isolated aging in A Man Called Ove, death and responsibility in My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, abandonment in Britt-Marie Was Here, dementia in And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer – gleefully softened with undeniable humor and charm. Beartown is different: despite glimmers of familiar playfulness, Backman has undoubtedly gone dark.
In shrinking Beartown, ice hockey provides the only hope that the isolated community might have a future. But when the junior team’s star player rapes the team manager’s 15-year-old daughter, taking sides proves inevitable. Some call foul against the victim, claiming her accusation a publicity stunt; others champion the truth at the risk of their own safety.
Marin Ireland here showcases a controlled-to-frantic-to-resigned virtuosic range similar to that which made her so memorable as the Princetonite-turned-terrorist in Homeland’s opening season. Beyond her affecting vocal modulations, Ireland embodies more nuanced moments: breaking points, reversals of parent/child roles, unbearable rage, shattering disappointments.
Verdict: Backman scores big with such a powerfully affecting narrator. Highly recommended.