By Ekta R. Garg
September 28, 2022
Genre: Mainstream fiction
Release date: September 27, 2022
Rated: Binge it! / 5 stars
Two years after the event that tore apart a small Swedish town, residents must contend with prejudices once again. A storm reveals inequities between the town and its fiercest rival, but it also brings home some of the young adults who help it heal again. Author Fredrik Backman takes readers back to Beartown and Hed in the wrenching finale to the Beartown trilogy with a worthy ending in The Winners.
It’s been two years since Kevin Erdahl raped Maya Andersson. Two years since the towns of Beartown and Hed found themselves nearly at one another’s throats. The fallout from the rape left Maya without any legal justice but with a stronger sense of self. It’s made her brave enough to leave her small town in the forest and go to the big city to pursue her love for music at college.
Back in Beartown, Maya’s parents, Peter and Kira, are trying to find some semblance of normal again. Peter is no longer the general manager for Beartown hockey, once the team he played for and led to victory time and again. These days Peter works with Kira in her law office. At least, that’s what both of them are saying.
Neither wants to admit how miserable Peter is or how he should find his way back to the rink again. Instead, Peter goes to work with Kira and spends the rest of his time baking bread. Lots and lots of bread. When Maya comes home after a major storm strikes, it gives Peter an excuse to spend time with her instead of knead dough all day.
In another part of the world, Benji Ovich has left Beartown behind. Once one of the team’s rising stars, Benji fled after Kevin left town following his trial. The worst part was that in the aftermath of Kevin’s selfishness, everyone found out that Benji is gay and bullied him. It was bad enough people knew he and Kevin were best friends; this pushes him away from the town completely.
Since then, Benji has traveled the world seeking love and fulfillment. All he’s found is dingy bars and dark spaces where he wakes up next to strangers. When word comes of the storm, it gives Benji a legitimate excuse to go home instead of having to make up one.
The storm doesn’t last long, yet it whips up a different kind of frenzy. At one time, Beartown hockey was on the brink of financial disaster. Now the team has a brand new rink, and neighboring Hed is on the verge of losing everything. Residents of Beartown hate the residents of Hed, yet the financial scheming of some greedy inhabitants means that the fates of both towns will be tied together.
Bringing back his trademark whimsical writing style, author Fredrik Backman writes his most emotional novel yet about the residents of Beartown and Hed. Mirroring the reality of rape victims, Backman traces the delicate story of what happens to Maya and her loved ones after the fact. As the omniscient narrator tells us, for Maya the rape is a part of her existence. Many days, she feels like she’s still there.
This third book brings Backman closer to the series than ever before. Several times his omniscient narrator makes reference to the fact that “he” is also a member of that community. There’s no doubt that Backman has lived with these characters for a long time and is giving readers one last look at their lives before moving on.
Old characters from the previous two books return, and new characters become just as important to the narrative. Readers will be hard pressed to pick a favorite by the end. No one will walk away from the book unaffected.
Although Backman offers some semblance of hope for most of the characters by the end—their lives are irrevocably changed, yet they’re still forging ahead—some readers might experience a sense of melancholy. That testament to Backman’s talent in creating this world and these people will leave many of those readers wanting to read the entire trilogy, start to finish, as soon as they close this last book. I recommend readers Binge The Winners.