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The Winners

The Winners, by Fredrik Backman

8/60 | Started 11.17.23 • Finished 02.09.24 | 4.5 stars

An epic finish to Backman's Beartown series. So much happens in this book that it feels really complicated to review it well. Along with that, I read it in two parts because I had to read two books for book club. Backman continues to be one of my favorite authors as his characters have such complexity and depth.

When we’re young we know nothing about all the very worst that can hit us, which is just as well, because otherwise we’d never leave the house.

All the characters return for the finale, plus a few new ones. The rivalry between Beartown and Hed comes to a climax when a winter storm wipes out Hed's hockey rink and the two towns are forced to share a facility. In the meantime, an investigative journalist uncovers corruption that could take out Beartown hockey and its beloved son. Backman's themes are wide and deep, allowing the characters to really come to life. There is new love mixed with heartbreak, courage with danger, friendship with hatred, justice with tragedy, hope with despair. I appreciated that Benji's homosexuality took a back seat after the earlier novels and the first little bit of this one. It's also compelling that an outcast becomes the hero.

The end of life is as unstoppable as its beginning, we can’t stop the first and last breaths we take any more than we can stop the wind.

Backman does a great job of setting the reader up for the ending without ever really giving away what that ending is going to be until suddenly, there it is. Overall, the series is a win in my book, though I do think a few story arcs could have been less socially contentious. I would have to be careful about who I recommended this to because of the violence, social issues, and other triggers.

What is laughter, other than a small victory over sorrow? A single moment, just one, when everything inside us isn’t broken.

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