Beartown and The Intersection of Life and Literature

Someone asked me for my opinion on Beartown whenever I got around to finishing it so hear it is. Fredrik Backman writes the most compelling books I have read this year. I decided to stop listening to them in the car as it is difficult to drive while bawling your eyes out but I forgot it is difficult to read a hardcopy of a book while doing the same.

Like all the other Fredrik Backman books I have read Beartown stirred my emotions and made me feel for the characters as if they were real people. Perhaps even more so because this was a book about parenting. Up until this point I had avoided reading any guides to parenting and here one was snuck into a novel.

The main premise of the novel is parents can’t protect their kids. All parents can do is give their kids the tools. The kids will then use the tools their parents give them to their purpose. If a kid never has to work for anything in their life either because of talent or wealth they will think they are entitled to take whatever they want, and that is exactly what happens in the novel.

The novel is about boys and girls and the different ways in which society treats them. When the star athlete of a youth hockey team in a town deep in the woods takes what he wants from a girl at a party who will be believed when it is her word against his? If you’ve paid attention to the media over the last few years you know exactly who will be believed. The perpetuator somehow becomes the victim. The girl that was the victim becomes the slut, bitch, whore, liar. That is how it goes and it is a story we all know too well.

This was the book I finished on the day of my daughter’s first birthday party. A book about how I can’t protect my children. We can only give them the tools to protect themselves. Tell them where the danger lies and what to look out for. We can warn them about the big bad wolves all we want but ultimately they will have to be the ones to face them.

We live in a time where some parents don’t want to tell their children about the wolves. They want to ignore them and pretend like they don’t exist. The thing about darkness is that it needs shadows to survive. We can’t fight the darkness by providing the shadows. We need to provide the light.

That is what I was thinking when my daughter was handed her second baby doll of her first birthday and a set of accessories from a brand called, “Mommy Me.” Just one year old and being pointed towards the path of being a mommy, and it made me think, “We start telling girls at one they are going to be mommies but there are some parents afraid to tell their kids at 14 how it happens.”

As I was walking in the house after working this evening I had a different thought. A thought that brought it all full circle. At one years old the boys got a xylophone, a tractor, an airplane, and a few other assorted odds and ends from their relatives. They didn’t get any baby dolls or accessories from a company called, “Father Me.”

We start telling our girls at one year old that it is their destiny to be mothers, but when do we start teaching boys how to be fathers? Then my thoughts returned to Kevin and Maya of Beartown and how that is the entire problem. Girls are told their purpose so early in life whereas boys are allowed to find their purpose, and if the boy ends up the star hockey player in a small town then what else is he supposed to do with a girl at a party than take her upstairs and have his way?

This is the world we live in and Fredrik Backman describes it too well. Beartown is now a book that lives inside of me. I will never be able to look at my children and not think of the residents there and how I need to teach my daughter to be very careful when at teenage house parties with star athletes, and even more important I need to teach my sons how to be better than those types of boys.

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