Cover Image: The Winners

The Winners

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The Winners by Fredrik Backman was all I had hoped it would be….A WINNER! Once again Fredrick Backman transported me back to the rivalries between Beartown and Hed, to hockey, to competition, to old, familiar and well loved characters and to some new characters as well, to happiness and yes to sadness in its rawest form. Maya and Benji traveled home to Beartown after being away for two long years. Both Maya and Benji tried desperately over those two years to forget all the things that had made them both leave in the first place.  Maya left for music school and to forget what Kevin had done to her. Benji simply just ran away. They both tried hard to reinvent themselves and fit into their new surroundings and lives. A simple phone call lured them both back home. How could they not be present? Little did either of them know about the storm that would precede their arrival in Beartown by just a day. A storm, like no other storm! One that would cause such devastation and destruction to both Beartown and Hed and all the people that lived there. An untimely death brought Maya and Benji back home but a forewarning had been given from the very start of The Winners that “Boys like Benji die young. They die violently.” I was so unprepared for how and why his death would actually occur. 

Fredrik Backman introduced some rather new and darker characters into The Winners. Matteo was a young troubled solitary fourteen year old adolescent boy that had lost his sister, Ruth, his best friend. Maya and Matteo’s sister were both victims of rape but the circumstances that led to each rape, the lives Ruth and Maya led, and the final outcomes from each rape were so completely different from one another. Once Matteo discovered the truth behind his sister’s disappearance and ultimate death all he could contemplate and think about was getting revenge for his sister, Ruth. Matteo lived in Beartown but he was invisible to most. His parents were religious fanatics and not very good at parenting. Matteo chose a dark and dangerous path to travel down. Would anyone be able to stop him?

I loved how Amat’s character found its way back to Beartown hockey and his friends. It took a while, but slowly Amat was resurrected into the hockey player he had been before he was turned down by the NHL. Amat became Beartown’s hero again. I really enjoyed the transformation of Bobo’s character. Bobo’s  romance with Jess was endearing and sweet. I didn’t care for Tails and all his manipulations with the hockey teams. Beartown and Hed had enough problems without his interference and sneaky maneuvers. Clearly, Tails was out for himself and didn’t care who got hurt along the way until he finally found his conscience.  It was nice to recognize the new respectfulness and acceptance that Peter and Teemu discovered. I was glad that Peter found his way back to hockey. He was like a lost soul working with his wife in her office. I loved that Maya and Ana were able to pick up their friendship as if no time had lapsed at all. And then there was Benji. Perhaps he had the hardest time acclimating back to Beartown. Benji was someone you would always want on your side, someone you could always count on and someone who would always be there for you. 

Everything that occurred in The Winners happened over a two week timeline. In that time, Beartown and Hed would be changed forever. Was it better? You decide. Although the ending was beyond sad, Fredrick Backman left us with hope for the future. The Winners was a moving and satisfying conclusion for the series for me. I did feel that the beginning of The Winners was slow but the ending was quite satisfying. The characters in this series crept into my heart. I will miss them. From this book I gained  a sense of hope, friendship, respect, conflict, acts of kindness, loss, devastation, and loyalty from the characters. All my emotions were tested and spent while I read The Winners. It was an extremely long book and I felt that it probably could have been shortened but I also did not want it to end. I will truly miss reading about the characters in Beartown and Hed. I highly recommend this book.

Thank you to Atria Books for allowing me to read this ARC of The Winners by Fredrik Backman in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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5 stars for the characters, 3 stars for the plot

“This hurts too much to touch with words.”

The Winners is the conclusion to the Beartown saga. In this installment, someone dies, a celebrated hero returns, and a little girl becomes the symbol of hope for a town devastated by a violent act.

There is no point in reading The Winners if you haven’t read Beartownand Us Against You.

This wasn’t a lovefest for me. Coming in at a little under 700 pages, this book was too long-- parts were repetitive, and some of the storylines were dragged out, whereas others were not given enough attention. It is an understatement to say that the narrative was uneven.

Similar to books one and two, the narrative alternated between characters, with many allusions to the past and future. Backman likes to highlight connections, from the obvious to the minute, which made this a slow and tedious read.

I didn’t love the first half, and there were even times that I had to force myself to continue reading. While I loved reuniting with the characters, it was a long ride to get to the end.

But my love for the characters kept me reading. They are the best part of this series. I think I love them a little too much!

The last 20% filled me with dread. I knew what was coming, but I refused to believe it. This part of the book is also the heart of the book, as readers have to say goodbye. After finishing this book, I am an emotional mess. Saying goodbye to these characters was harder than I thought.

The journey to get there was long and harrowing but worth it in the end. This series has touched my heart, and the characters have made a mark. As hard as the ending was to read, it was, in essence, perfect.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.
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“This hurts too much to touch with words.”

This is exactly how I feel. The Winners was one of my most anticipated reads this year. How could it not be? I love everything that Backman writes. I would read his grocery list. I’m sure with how wordy this book is, he would have some type of powerful message about carrots. I’m at a loss for words right now and it’s a familiar feeling with his work. I’m a bit bummed that this wasn’t five sparkling stars but it was close.

First, let’s get my biggest issue with this book out of the way. I was shocked to see this book is almost 700 pages! Especially, for the last book in a trilogy. Regardless, I went in with high hopes. It took me a while to get into this one. There are many new characters and stories that we get into it. There is a large part of the first half of this book that it’s about the new characters more than our original characters. I get it by the end but it could have been a bit shorter. Even though I struggled with the plot and pacing a bit his characters were SPOT ON.

Backman has a gift at creating some of the most amazing characters that will stay with you, pretty much forever. I was so happy to get more from Benji, Maya, Ana, Bobo, Amat, Peter, and Kira. I am forgetting so many more but you get the point. I have to take a special moment and talk about Ramona. She’s always been one of my favorite characters and it’s insane how vital she is to this town! It’s been two years since our last book and our characters are all over the place. A crazy storm comes in and things happen that have them all coming back. Benji has been one of my favorites from all the books and his character arc is just epic. I can’t say too much more but if you’ve read the first two books then you kind of guess where it goes.

This series is not light-hearted at all. He gets into some very dark subjects- rape, violence, drugs, alcohol, and some heavy family dynamics. In this one he tackles some troubled marriages on top of all that. With this whole series, there is a lot of politics involved, more than you might think. This has never been a story just about hockey but the darker sides of people. Backman explores the line between good becoming evil and evil becomes good. He does it in such a brilliant way too. One of my favorite things about Backman’s writing is the way he has such beautiful and heartbreaking ways to make such clever points. For example, I read this and my heart kind of broke a little bit…

“How many more years of this will Hannah herself have, at best? Soon it will be over. Soon they’ll be grown-up. Mothers have no armor to get them through life because they give every last bit to their children, by the end of their teenage years there isn’t even any skin left, so every feeling of loss cuts right into her flesh now.”

Are you kidding me, Mr. Backman?! He has so many instances of these insights about all different types of situations. It’s what makes me feel this all the more. I don’t know what else to say about this book without giving any spoilers. I will say, it has been a pleasure to read this series and its one that I will recommend and remember forever! There’s so much pain in this book but also healing. There’s always hope. The bear of Beartown was perfection.

Overall, I loved this. It was a heartbreakingly perfect ending to this series. I really could go on and on but I can’t because I don’t do spoilers here! Even if it was a little too long and a bit too slow, I loved seeing more of these characters. If you enjoyed either of his first two books then I think you will this one too. Backman is a genius at telling the most thought provoking stories with fantastic characters. My sweater is full of tears but I have no regrets. Sir, I have loved you since Ove and I will never stop.

Many thanks to Atria Books and Netgalley for an e-arc to review.
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What an ending to this series. Truly award-worthy. The way that Backman writes about the human experience is unlike any other. His writing itself is steeped in meaning; the amount of tabs I used while reading is a bit ridiculous, but a testament to the importance of his writing. I would 100% teach this series in my AP Lit class. Truly a masterpiece.
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I didn’t think the Beartown series needed a third book, however, author Fredrik Backman gives fans of his beloved series an equally  heart-warming and heart-wrenching finale.  From the ominous opening, through the continued promise of something big—both stated and implied—and the shocking culmination, I was hooked.

All the characters that we loved and despised are present, and there are new characters presented from the rival town of Hed.  Loves are rekindled.  Friendships are renewed.  New lives enter the tiny, forest communities and lives are lost.  The winners is a rather long book because of the wide cast of characters, and it takes some weaving for all those characters’ storylines to intertwine into the perfect tapestry that is this series end.

Matteo is a character that I felt I should remember from prior books, and like his invisibility to people in Beartown and Hed, I cannot remember him at all!  He is, however, key to the story.  He is a bit like Shakespeare’s Puck in that he is an instigator, but unlike the seemingly playful mischievousness of Puck, Matteo’s actions are vengeful and catastrophic. 

The Winners is more about politics and adults trying to game the system than it was about small-town hockey.  I enjoyed seeing some favorite characters again, and falling in love with who Bobo and Benji have become, but as with most youth sports programs, the adult shenanigans sucked the joy out of the game.  It was easy to emphasize with the parents’ concern and frustration as well as to hate the politicians and people trying to make money off the leagues.  Was it interesting to see the characters' future? Yes.  Was it sadly realistic to see the behind-the-scenes politics?  Yes.  Was it tragic to see the injustices that occur to the “invisibles” that loosely orbit small-town sports heroes? Yes.  Is it worth the read?  Yes.  It is thought-provoking and filled with messages of family, belonging and community.
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Fredrik Backman is one of the best fiction writers on the planet. Every book in his Beartown series has tugged at my heartstrings, making me laugh, cry and despair and hope, sometimes within a single chapter or paragraph. This finale to his award winning series ties up all the loose ends. A long book at 670 pages, but I never felt like anything was extraneous or should have been edited out. Fully developed characters, intricate plotlines and tense and tender relationships literally kept me reading late into the night. Highly recommended

Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for an advanced reader copy.
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I have loved the Beartown series from the very first book. Backman’s writing is so unique and immersive - almost as if he is sitting with you and telling a story of this small town in the Swedish wilderness where friendships are formed and lost, families are complicated and hockey is king.

The Winners is the third book in the Beartown series and a fitting end to the people and stories we have come to know and love. We are taken back into the lives of Benji, Maya, Bono and the whole town of Beartown two years after the last book ended - but it feels like we never left.

Through 670 pages we are let back into this community and along the way we met new characters that wound their way into our hearts. At its core this story is a keen observation of human nature and there are so many moments about marriage, love, parenting death and loss that resonated with me.

If you have a chance to buddy read this book - do it! I shared this experience with @thesubstitutelibrarian and @andrea.c.lowry.reads and along the way we we’re sharing quotes, fears and tears. Thanks again ladies! You are the best❤️.

Thanks also to @atriabooks for my physical copy and @netgalley for a e-galley!
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I’m so sad that this series is over, but this last book was such an emotional roller coaster!

Two years have gone by and big changes are on the horizon, but one thing remains clear…hockey is life for the residents of Beartown. Many characters have returned, and while I loved seeing them reunite and hearing their hilarious playful banter, the reason for their return was a sad one. But the heartache doesn’t end there. Before this story ends, a life is lost and it is just utterly so heartbreaking. It completely blindsided me, and I’m not ashamed to admit I shed a few tears. 

This entire series is quite different from Fredrik Backman’s others works, as it has a more serious undertone, but the essence of his writing remains the same. The lessons weaved into his stories are ones that we can all relate to and learn a thing or two from. I have yet to find another author who truly understands the human condition the way that Mr. Backman does, and he continues to amaze me with his emotionally-driven and dynamic stories.

Highly recommend!

*Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing a copy of this book to review.*
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I have read everything by Fredrik Backman. He is one of my all-time favorite authors, and the Beartown series is one I always recommend to people. When I saw that the final book in the trilogy was nearly 700 pages long, I was terrified, which did prevent me from immediately inhaling it once I was approved on NetGalley. But when I did pick it up and delve in, the time flew by. I think I spent 10-12 hours reading this book, but I don't think I thought once "how much LONGER is this??" Backman's writing does that to me, and it was not different with The Winners.
There were so many characters and storylines to keep track of, and I will admit, whenever it switched to a different plotline, I'd get a little mad and be like "but I wanna know what's going to happen in the one I've been reading!" and then not two minutes later, I'd be invested. That is to say, it jumps around a lot, but I still enjoyed it immensely.
I'm very excited to be able to be done with this book in time to see Backman live--if his speaking is even half as eloquent as his writing, I know I'll be amazed and entertained throughout.
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I've really enjoyed the Beartown series thus far and so was absolutely delighted to get an advanced egalley of The Winners for review.  I want to start off with my initial thought after completing the book, which was, HOW DARE YOU!   I made the mistake of reading the ending of this book while having maintenance done on my car at the dealership.  I was not prepared for the wealth of emotion I would be hit with the ending.  The entire series deals with deep and devastating subject matter and there was a lot of foreshadowing that hinted where the story was headed so I should have known better.  I'm not a crier but my face must have been betraying me in some way because when the woman at the dealership came to give me an update on my car she felt the need to reassure me that they'd get me a rental car while they tried to figure out the problem and that it was all covered so I didn't need to worry, I chose not to explain that I didn't car nearly as much about my car as the characters in this book.   Backman has a unique way of both breaking your heart and giving you hope.  He writes about humanity in such a real way and is completely unabashed in stating hard truths.  In my opinion, the mark of a good book is it's ability to make you feel something and I can assure you that I felt a lot while reading this book.  As is quoted in the book "This hurts too much to touch with words".  Yes, yes it does.
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So, first of all, Fredrik Backman, how dare you? For real, how DARE you!?

“This hurts too much to touch with words.”

The Beartown books have been some of my very favorite books of all the books I’ve ever read. The writing is beautiful and manages to wrench so much emotion out of my little black heart. Backman somehow manages to make me feel super depressed, but also kind of hopeful, all at the same time and that was no exception with the third (final?) book in the series. The Winners really put me through it.

It wasn’t a perfect book, though. Even though I expect a slower pace and an abundance of details, it took me quite a while to get into this book. I was probably about a third of the way through before I really started to feel invested in it. There is also A LOT going on. I’ve never had trouble keeping up with all the character POVs we get in these books, but I felt like in this one there were maybe a little too many? There’s new characters that were brought in that I could’ve done with seeing a little less of. At almost 700 pages, I felt like there could have been a little more editing.

There were lots of things I loved about it, though, too. Peter and Teemu were the friendship I never knew I needed. Bobo falling in love and just being an all around amazing person was adorable. It’s hard to remember that the first few times we met him in the first book, he was such a jerk. Amat getting back to his old self made my heart happy. And Benji. Oh, Benji. I loved all the scenes that had the group together playing hockey and going camping and letting there be some light in all the darkness. Because this book was hard. I can’t even tell you how many times I thought to myself, “these people need Jesus!” while reading. (And not in the way that poor Ruth and Matteo’s parents used religion.)

I’m not going to talk about what we’ve all feared since the first book. Backman has told us it will happen. Even in the very first chapter of this book, he tells us how it will happen. Even so, I’m not quite sure I’ll ever be able to forgive him for going through with it. (I need Jesus, too.)

Overall, The Winners was a fitting end to the Beartown series. The loose ends were tied up and there were a lot of happy endings, even if we had to go through tragic things to get there. While I do wish this book had been edited down a bit and wasn’t quite so slow to start with, it was really just as beautifully done as the first two books and I know it’s something that will stay with me for a long time.
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The Winners by Fredrik Backman is an outstanding, excellent and obviously very highly recommended third novel in the Beartown series. To date, The Winners is the best book I have read this year. Be sure to read Beartown (2017) and Us Against You (2018) the first two Beartown novels.

In the Swedish forest towns of Beartown and Hed, a storm blows through the area that downs many trees, wrecks havoc, and destroys the roof of the ice hockey rink in Hed. During the same storm a beloved citizen dies, which is the impetus for Maya Andersson and Benji Ovich to come home and a reunite with their friends. The storm also means that the Hed hockey players must train and play in the Beartown rink, which ignites another kind of storm as the tension between the two towns grow.

It has been two years since what happened to Maya, but repercussions still remain. Beartown and Hed are still bitter rivals on the ice, but there is also an undercurrent of interconnectedness to the residents of both communities, after all, they live in forest towns and it takes a certain kind of resilient person to live there.

Backman brings back his beloved characters (Peter, Kira, Maya, Benji, Ana, Ramona, Bobo, Amat, Sune and others) and introduces new ones. All of the characters are fully realized individuals who are portrayed as real people. This ability to develop a rich cast of realistic characters that readers will become totally devoted to and care about is a gift that few writers have. You will become  invested in the characters and the plot.

The writing is phenomenal, absolutely perfect. Just as real life can be complicated, the plot is also complex. There are many story lines in the narrative, but with characters as believable as these it seems so effortless to follow all of them. Backman excels at foreshadowing events that are to come, which will further invest readers in the story, if it is even possible to become more invested in such an engrossing novel.

I love everything about Backman's writing and have highlighted more passages in this one book than I have in any other for years. There are so many truisms in the narrative which had me pausing and rereading passages simply because they were so well written and filled with such truth and insight. Admittedly, I was also a sobbing mess for part of The Winners. It is both a celebration of life and a tragedy, of friendship and loss. I love this novel perhaps even more than all of Backman's previous novels, which I also loved. There are not enough stars available for The Winners.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Atria Books via NetGalley.
The review will be published on Barnes & Noble, Edelweiss, Google Books, and Amazon.
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Thanks to NetGalley, Atria Books, and Fredrik  Backman for allowing me to read The Winners in return for an honest review.

The Beartown trilogy has been an introspective look into people in small towns who compete against each other for business and sports, and letting nothing stand in their way. Small towns seem to have their own rules for handling people who don’t live up to their expectations, so innocent people are sometimes ignored to protect the powerful and rich people who ran the town. But, can it always be that way? Not when a hurt young man takes revenge for his sisters abuse and abuse of power. Nothing will ever be the same, but will life improve after the tragic events?
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“You have to make the most of the happy endings whenever you get the chance.” 

Unless you followed me literally yesterday you know I have a deeeep love for this series and it’s characters. I first read BEARTOWN and US AGAINST YOU last year and reread them both in August in preparation for THE WINNERS.  If you’ve ever asked me for a book recommendation before there’s a good chance I’ve said these books. 

With all the being said obviously my hopes were high for this and it was my most anticipated book of the entire year (seriously thank you @simonandschuster and @atriabooks for this ARC!!!). Did it deliver?? 

Of course. 

Though I’m not going to lie it’s nearly 700 pages and it could’ve been shorter. The pacing was at times off and right from page 1 Backman heavily foreshadows to a big culmination between Beartown and Hed so I felt like I was just waiting and waiting. AND I was confused at the legalities of the club (which will make sense when you read it). 

With that aside, I loved it. My heart was bursting at the seems getting to be back with these beloved characters. Backman continues to deliver with timely social commentary, life lessons, beautiful writing, and of course hockey. 

THE WINNERS was a tale of parenthood, the weight of expectations, friendship, enduring love, grief, and society. 4.5⭐️s from me but an overall 5⭐️ series!
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Thank you Atria Books and NetGalley for the ARC! I loved the ending of the Beartown trilogy. The corruption portion felt a bit too long, but otherwise, it’s great. 

TW: suicide, gun violence, sexual assault.
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Fredrik Backman is a master storyteller. Book 3 of the Beartown series brings us back to The Alaskan town, Beartown. After a storm takes out the ice rink of Beatown’s ultimate rivals, the two neighboring towns must try to come together for the sake of the youth.  Not everyone is happy about the situation and conflict is high. 
Backman introduces us to some new characters, as well as reconnecting readers with many of the recurring characters from the series. As always, Backman does a stellar job of developing characters. 
This is a beautiful, heartbreaking and disturbing story. I loved it. 
*** huge thanks to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Here is the thing: I will not be able to review this in any normal, concise way. How could I? I didn't think Backman would be able to wrap this up in a real and satisfying way, but he pulled it off. He wrote book that made me feel every possible emotion. There's a sweet romance that made me giggle and kick my feet, there's crimes that fill me with rage, there's friendships that filled me such joy. Of course, there were moments that filled me with a deep sadness. He fills pages with hope and dread at the same time. And I loved all of it. 

Backman writes a lot of characters, but he writes them so well. Everyone we meet in these books, no matter how much page time they have, is deeply layered. Sure, I have my favorites (Maya, Ana, and Benji), and my least favorites (TAILS), but I care about them. That is what Backman does best; makes readers care and connect.

This book has some of the heaviest content I've ever read, so be warned. Its about the cyclical nature of violence and what we do for love. As readers, we know what is coming. We know we are building up to something awful, and yet, we can not look away. We stay in the sadness. Backman makes it worth it. Its worth it for the friendships, for Maya and Ana and Benji and Amat and Bobo and their campouts. For the new family we meet, Hannah and her idiot husband. Always for Peter and Kira and Maya and Ana. For the bear that's inside of all of us.
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Happy Publication Day to  Fredrik Backman on the release of his novel The Winners. The Winners is the third novel in the Beartown series. Unfortunately I have not read the previous two books in the series.  As a result I feel like I was missing a lot of information that ultimately impacted my views on The Winners. Don’t get me wrong. I did enjoy the book and I love Fredrik Backman.  In fact Anxious People is one of my all time favourite books.  And like Anxious People, The Winners was well written, full of heart and soul and human connections.  But for me it’s just that I feel like The Winners would have been more impactful if I’d known the backstories.  

The Winners takes place in Beartown, a small Forest town where hockey is a way of life.  On the surface it appears to be a peaceful community, but let me tell you, this is the farthest from the truth. Beartown is a community that struggles with drama, corruption and a long standing rivalry with a neighbouring town called Hed. After a late summer storm and a tragic event Beartown is never the same again. 

Backman is a masterful storyteller, who’s strength is  beautifully written character driven stories. I will definitely be reading the first two books in the Beartown Trilogy. Thank you to Simon & Schuster, Fredrik Backman and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an arc of The Winners.
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This is the third and final book in the Beartown trilogy. Yes, trilogy and you know that means you really do need to read the first two books for this one to make complete sense. Although there is a lot (and I mean a LOT) of catch-up contained herein, I really do think you should.
So... Hockey and politics and rivalry and community are all front and centre once again. Old characters who have moved on and moved away for various reasons all come back when one of their own dies. But, as with most things Beartown, this is a catalyst. One that sparks many things - some good, others bad. But know that every one will be emotive and emotional. Cos we are the Bears, the Bears from Beartown...
I am not saying anything more abut the plot - there's enough in the blurb to whet your appetite and keep you wondering who will fit with what "someone". As I did whilst reading. With my heart in my mouth, and if I could have read hiding behind a cushion (like how I watched scary TV when I was a kid) I would have. As I started to get towards the end, I wanted, no needed, to know what would happen. But, at the same time, I really didn't as I could see that we were heading for a crescendo. And that nothing would ever be the same again.
That said, it was lovely to reconnect with some of the best characters that I have met in time. And also to meet a few new ones. And see how some who have been there before, bubbling under, now come into the limelight and we get to know them better.
I've said before that although there's a lot about Hockey in the book, you don't have to like or care about either that or sport in general. The sport is what binds the community. Could be a whole host of other things, but here it's sport at the centre. It's sport which makes people fight, makes them proud, makes them corrupt, but mostly, makes them a community. But you know all that, cos you've read the previous two books!
I do admit I cried. But I laughed too. And giggled and, pretty much all the rest of the emotions too. And, when I got to the end, how it ended, I though... yes... totally job well done.
Now all that's left is for me to start again but listening this time. I already have book one locked and loaded on my MP3 player in anticipation...
My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.
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There are stories that make you feel everything. And then there are stories that leave you empty. 

This story is both.

And it's all because of Benji. 

If you have read the previous two books in the Beartown series, your heart will already belong to him. You will know the boy with the sad eyes and the wild heart. You will know the kind of person he is. 

I really wish this book had kept its original title ‘Those Who Run Towards Fire,’ because that's Benji. He's the sort of person who runs toward a fire. No hesitation, no questions, he just runs. People like that are rare, but you know who they are when you see them. And those of you who know Benji probably knew deep down that he was never the sort of person who would get a happy ending. 

Obviously we still hoped. Oh, how we hoped.

This final book, this ending, Benji's ending, hurts too much to touch with words. 

But thank you Fredrik Backman for giving it to us all the same.
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