Thursday, February 1, 2018

Beartown Book

Book:     Beartown
Author:  Fredrik Backman
Edition:  Kindle

Internet Resources

There are many good resources to prepare individuals and parents to talk with a survivor. Here is one from BARCC, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. How did the individuals in Beartown communicate with Maya? Where could they have been more effective or more empathetic? 

According to the Chicago Tribune in 2016, “the NHL remains the only league without an openly gay player — past or present — among the many who have donned NHL uniforms.”
Why do you think this is? How does this mesh with the view Beartown presents?

Major Characters

Maya: 15 year-old girl who is raped by Kevin
Leo: Maya’s 12-year old brother
Kira: Lawyer and Maya’s mother
Peter: General manager of Beartown Ice Hockey and Maya’s father
Ana: Maya’s best friend
Kevin Erdahl: Rapist and lead scorer for the junior team
Benji: Kevin’s best friend 
David: Coach of the junior team
Amat: 15-year incredibly fast hockey player
Fatima: Cleaner at the hockey rink and Amat’s mother
Sune: Old man and the A-team coach
Life and Zacharias: Amat’s friends who do not get promoted to junior team
Adri: Kennel owner and Benji’s oldest sister
Ramona: owner of the town pub
Lars: Boy’s team coach
Bobo: Junior team player who has gone from first string to third
William Lyt: member of junior hockey team
Maggan Lyt: William’s mom

Discussion Topics

Here are a small selection of discussion topics for Beartown that may help your book group launch a discussion relevant to your groups’ interests and other books you may have discussed.  The topic of secrets in particular is a common theme across novels and can serve as an interesting point of comparison.

Secrets

Secrets are kept by many of the characters both about themselves and about the rape. Secrets can be overwhelming to protect. Secrets can be powerful when exposed.
"Maya knows all too well that silent can be like water. If you let it make its way too far in, it can freeze into ice and break your heart." Chapter 30
and later Maya reflects, 
“Astonished at how strong she has learned to pretend to be. At the number of secrets she can hold these days.” Chapter 46
Reflect on how each secret holder is impacted by the secret she or he holds. How is each reaction different because of the secret itself and how much is a reflection of who the secret holder is?  What power, both positive and negative, is held by the secrets staying hidden and the secrets being exposed?
What types of secrets have you found most powerful when no longer hidden? What secrets have been most damaging when exposed? When have you or someone you’ve known struggled with keeping something secret? Why and what was the outcome?

Weak and Strong

Much of the struggle in Beartown is around who is powerful and who succumbs to that power. In the narration, we are told
“we developed because the strongest individuals always thrived at the expense of the weak” Chapter 37
Do you agree? Where and when does this belief ring true in your life? Where has an individual or a group or a society been able to turn this around? How can society change the balance of power for the better?

Survivor

Maya reacts with shame and silence after being raped. And when she does speak up, she finds that
" of all the feelings inside her then, guilt will be the greatest." Chapter 30
In addition, Maya feels that by telling what has happened, 
“now he’s [Kevin] hurt everyone.” Chapter 40
Others who know pieces of the story don’t come forward at first whether it’s Kevin’s mother who believes her son raped Maya, or Amat who came into Kevin’s room or Benji who saw Maya by the road after the rape. What compels them to silence? What brings them forward?
Ana wants to yell at her neighbor that
“And the problem with this town is not only that a boy raped a girl, but that everyone is pretending that he DIDN’T do it. So now all the other boys will think that what he did was okay. Because no one cares.” Chapter 41
When have you stayed silent and wished you had spoken up? When have you spoken up and what were the ramifications?
Look at recent news events around survivors coming forward with their stories of abuse. Where has the power of the many been able to confront the power of the perpetrator? What does it take to reach that tipping point?

Place

Beartown residents are described as resenting the capital and feeling picked upon. 
“The first local saying Peter taught Kira was:’Bears shit in the woods, but everyone else shits on Beartown, so forest people have learned to take care of themselves.’” Chapter 5
“The people of Beartown love the fact that the climate is so inhospitable, because not everyone can handle it: that reminds them of their own strength and resilience.” Chapter 5
How does growing up in Beartown shape each character? 
Throughout the world, our birth city plays a significant role in our path through life. How did your hometown shape you as a person and your outlook on the world? 
How have you seen people buoyed by where they grew up? Where have you seen people trapped by where they grew up? Have you escaped or been caught by your birth city? Bolstered or undermined by where you’ve grown up?

Truth

“They all just want what’s best for the town. For the club. They all just want the truth to come out.” Chapter 42
‘They’ want their truth to come out. Where have you seen a group focused on what the group believes is the truth and circling the wagons around their own truth? How can one person go about changing the outlook of the group?

Parenting

A number of different parenting models are portrayed in Beartown. Kevin’s parents are barely there. Peter and Kira, whose first child dies, struggle with balancing parenting and working. Fatima is a single-mom who is working hard to provide for Amat. Benji’s sisters sometimes serve in the role of a parent.

What do you believe is the role of parenting? Which models do you think were most effective in meeting the goals you believe parents should achieve? Which parents did you most identify with or see some of yourself in the character’s actions?

2 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! Let me know if there are other books you would like guides for, I'm always looking for suggestions

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