The Winners Book Review

If you’ve read any other books in the Beartown series, you know what you’re getting into with Fredrik Backman’s latest book and the final book in the series, The Winners

In the final installment to this series, the residents of Beartown and Hed face extraordinary circumstances. Set two years after the events in Us Against You transpire, a funeral calls those who have left Beartown back. One storm and two funerals set into motion heart-wrenching events that end with someone grabbing a gun and walking towards the ice rink.

Someone has to lose.

As with every Backman book, the characters, setting, and plot are impeccable. There is less subversion of expectations with this one— either I’m getting better at seeing through the false leads, or he subverted expectations by not subverting expectations. Honestly, sometimes I feel like Backman is playing mind games with his readers, toying with our emotions, assumptions, and novel structure all simultaneously. It’s part of what makes his books so engaging– you never know what will happen next, anything is possible, and you don’t dare put the book down. You simply must know what happens next.

This novel explores established characters on a deeper level and introduces new characters as well. With classic Backman style, these characters are all unique, yet perfectly fit into the landscape of the world. And that world is still gorgeous, the forest and lake as much a part of the plot as the characters.

Though this cast is expansive, each character is so well crafted they are easy to keep straight. They are endearing, humorous, and nuanced. Backman’s character development continues to be exceptional, with characters practically leaping off the stage and into the reader’s mind.

There isn’t a lot I can say about this novel without going into spoilers. There will be a section at the end with trigger warnings for anyone who would prefer to go into this novel prepared.

Backman has created a heartbreaking allegory for the world we live in. The questions posed are ones that stretch beyond Beartown’s forest and touch all our lives: Who gets to decide who belongs? Can hate be overcome? What will a parent do to protect their child?

Backman’s incredible style permeates every page, drawing the reader in and shining a light on our worst fears and our greatest hopes. Backman highlights the daily bits of joy amidst the seasons of despair brilliantly.

This one will do a number on your heart, or at least it did mine. But you’ll highlight half the passages and think about highlighting the other half, because Backman has an uncanny ability to articulate the most tumultuous of thoughts in a way that not only make sense, but make the most sense. It is quite long, but that’s part for the course with this series.

The Winners is available now. Thank you to the author, NetGalley, and Atria books for an advanced copy such that I could share my honest opinions.

You can purchase The Winners through Bookshop.org here. Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org. I will earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase.

Trigger/Content Warnings below image will contain spoilers.

SPOILERS AHEAD! SCROLL BACK NOW OR ELSE KNOW WHAT YOU CANNOT UNKNOW!

There are several trigger warnings for this book. One is included in the synopsis, as it says someone with a gun approaches the rink.

There is a shooting.

An animal dies.

A child is endangered.

Child abuse is mentioned, but known explicitly shown.

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