Likely Stories: Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

Aug 20, 2020

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry.

Swedish author, Fredrik Backman, has written six thrilling stories of life in Sweden.  Most revolve around ice hockey.  The seventh is every bit as wonderful, tragic, filled with love, hate, and greed.  Us Against You continues the story of “warfare” between two rival towns over hockey supremacy.  I have loved every minute of these stories, and you will, too!

Backman wrote, “Have you ever seen a town fall?  Ours did.  We end up saying that Violence came to Beartown this summer, but that will be a lie; the violence was already hear.  Because sometimes hating one another is so easy that it seems incomprehensible that we ever do anything else. // We’re a small community in the forest; people say there are no roads here, just past.  The economy coughs every time it takes a deep breath; the factory cuts  its workforce each year like a child that thinks no one will notice the cake in the fridge getting smaller if you take a little bit from each side.  If you lay a current map of the town over the old one, the main shopping street and the little strip known as ‘the center’ seems to shrink like bacon in a hot pan.  We have an ice rink but not much else.  But on the other hand, as people usually say here: What the hell else do you need?”  For these townspeople, hockey is the life blood and guts of Beartown.

Two of the main characters are Maya and Ana.  These friends are helping each other, especially Ana who was attacked.  This caused a rift among the residents, and hatred was the number one activity for the dying town.  Backman continues, “Maya and Ana read the first anonymous texts, then they switched off their phones.  ‘This is your fault.’  ‘If the club dies so do you!’  Ana and Maya know what’s happening now, know who’s going to bear the brunt of the hatred and threats. // Maya goes to the bathroom and throws up.  Ana sits on the floor of the hall outside.  She has read that support groups for victims of rape call themselves ‘survivors.’  Because that is what they do each day: they survive what they’ve been subjected to, over and over again.  Ana wonders if there’s a word for everyone else, the people who let it happen.  People are already prepared to destroy each other’s worlds just to avoid having to admit that many of us bear small portions of a collective guilt for a boy’s actions.  It is easier if you deny it, if you tell yourself that it’s an ‘isolated incident.’  Ana dreams of killing Kevin for what he’s done to her best friend, but most of all she dreams of crushing the whole town for what it’s still putting Maya through” (28). 

Fredrik Backman tells wonderful stories in small towns with a passion for hockey.  Us Against You is a story of intense battles—on and off the ice—which tears Beartown apart.  5 stars.

Likely Stories is a production or KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and Happy Reading!