Fredrick Backman’s Beartown was a firm favourite* among the books I read last year, so I was very happy to see him return to that ice hockey town in a large Swedish forest in Us Against You.
Can a broken town survive a second tragedy?
By the time the last goal is scored, someone in Beartown will be dead . . .
Us Against You is the story of two towns, two teams and what it means to believe in something bigger than yourself. It’s about how people come together – sometimes in anger, often in sorrow, but also through love. And how, when we stand together, we can bring a town back to life.
(I think you could read this as a stand-alone but why would you want to read one book about Beartown when you could read two?! Get them both and read them one after another or leave this one a little while in order to savour the anticipation of there being more to come. Either way, go and read Beartown then come back to Us Against You.)
Us Against You picks up almost where Beartown left off; its townspeople are still very much coming to terms with what happened and dealing with the fallout. It’s left one family shattered, more shunned than supported, and held responsible for the town’s troubles, while others seem to return to normal.
The hockey team is haemorrhaging players to their nearest rivals in the neighbouring town of Hed. And if this continues, it could mean the unimaginable for a hockey town like Beartown: no senior team, its stadium closed down, and no ice hockey to give structure or focus to people’s lives.
While there are some good souls who will try and help their friends and neighbours heal, and attempt to bring the community back together again, there will of course always be those others who seek to exploit and profit from such divisions. Enter the politicians and property developers. I might have thought that hockey was a pretty bruising game but it’s nothing when compared to the political manoeuvring that’s about to play out in Us Against You.
Despite these machinations, Us Against You is every bit as much about the people, their relationships and their community as Beartown was. Some familiar faces from the first book are here, so we see how they are coping in the aftermath, with other characters brought in to move the story along. It meant that I could better get to know and come to understand some Beartown characters, while the newcomers added a fresh perspective and dynamic to the story. The youngsters, especially. They gave me hope that they could offer the same to a town badly in need of it.
Fredrik Backman feeds into the preconceptions we have of people, before showing us another, more surprising, side to them. We’re party to the external challenges they face, and also the internal battles that rage inside them. It’s good to be reminded of how complex human beings are; not wholly dark or light but having a propensity for both within us.
Even if you’re not a sports fan, I think you’ll enjoy this (and its predecessor) because Fredrik Backman writes with such feeling, humour and understanding about the people of Beartown. I loved Us Against You every bit as much as the first book and, just as soon as the paperback comes out next week, they’ll both be lining up together on my Keeper Bookshelf, where there will always be room for more in the series.
Us Against You by Fredrik Backman is published by Penguin Books UK. It is available as an audiobook, ebook, in hardback with the paperback due out on 2 May. You can find it at Amazon UK or buy it from Hive where purchases help support your local independent bookshop.
Fredrik Backman is the bestselling author of A Man Called Ove which has been made into a film. For more on him and his books, check out his Author Website, Facebook page or follow him on Instagram or on Twitter.
* You can read my review of Beartown here.