Sunday, June 7, 2020


Recommended by Chris, a library advisor; one detail that got my attention was the author had previously written "A Man Called Ove."  Not read the book, but saw the original Swedish movie and did a blog on it.  I also got into a conversation with someone at work who was recommending the book.

No matter how dramatic an incident may be, it always comes with a context.   "Beartown illustrates the value of context.   It is human nature to simplify an explanation, but often the complexity is what we need to understand.  Fiction can sometimes point out the impact of seldom noticed factors.  In university I wrestled for awhile with the difference between psychology and sociology.  I fell under the spell of some excellent sociology professors and appreciated that every individual is impacted by social pressures.  At a later time I now appreciate that it is the individual's psychology (which is similar for all humans) that determines how we react and contribute to that social pressure.

Sports books tend to fit a pattern.  Usually hard work leads to an underdog winning.  Teamwork is important, even in individual sports that require coaches and trainers.  Sports are encouraging for people striving for success in any activity.  Sports, in fact acts as a metaphor for success.

The first part of the story seems fairly typical about a sports team culminating in an important victory.  There is a gradual buildup of characterization that expands in the aftermath of the victory.  Struck by how the author seems to understand typical communication problems between parents and their children and between the children, and among the adults.  Hurt feelings, jealousy, hidden feelings are below the surface.

Teamwork is usually lauded as a commendable thing, but another aspect is featured in this narrative.  To one character, the general manager the concept means he has to do something he doesn't want to do.  He is expected to force the man that brought him back to the town after an NHL career, to resign and not be fired (as that would cost money).  Young promising boys are promoted to older age groups when they are not ready, but for the sake of the team.  On the other hand the team provides a feeling of belonging.

A small town with a high interest in hockey, even seeing it as a tool to attract more business.  They disdain "almost winning."  The general manager is surprised to learn that if the junior team loses a semi-final the club will look for different senior coach.  The current likely candidate will have to win the junior title to be considered.

There are many characters that the author wants to develop so we can better appreciate there are multiple dynamics at play.  It may seem there are two sides to a conflict, i.e. those against and those for.  There are some who harbor guilt feelings and others unsure of the truth.

The town is slowly revealed in a wide variety of aspect.  One group known as the Pack does not want modernization as they would not fit in.  Team sponsors hope to get a hockey school which could lead to a shopping mall.  For some it gives pride to a town with little else.

The author sees connections between politics and sport.  As some deny any connection one character (the wife of the hockey general manager and main character) says "What do you think gets rinks built if not politics?

The focal event of the book is a sexual assault by the most promising hockey player against the daughter of the general manager.  There are a lot of people who are bystanders and much larger group of people who feel the impact.  At these times as the author points out people naturally divide others into friends and enemies.  Hate is simpler than love and we tend to seek facts that confirm our belief.  It is natural to dehumanize the enemy.  It takes courage to stand up to it.

Violence in the course of a hockey game is accepted, but when it goes outside the rink is subject to legal address.  That is becoming a little fuzzier.

Part of the context is the future, but that is really a guess.  The author speculates a bit in a somewhat poetic manner.  This has been my most compelling read so far this year.

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