Bookworm: ‘The Winners’ is a score!

Every loose end from the first two books in this trilogy is wrapped up here

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“The Winners”

  • By Fredrik Backman
  • c. 2022, Atria
  • $28.99 688 pages

It’s how you play the game. That’s what they’d like you to remember: it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s ... technique? Sportsmanship? Willingness to cheat? Do you play harder, knowing that the score doesn’t matter, or are you a nicer person on the table-court-rink-diamond-field? As in the new novel, “The Winners” by Fredrik Backman, can you – will you – bend the rules?

“The Winners” by Fredrik Backman.

Everybody in Beartown hated everybody in nearby Hed. It had been that way for as long as anyone in either town could remember, and hockey was almost always the root of the rivalry. Because hockey, as you knew, was the only thing.

Hockey almost tore Beartown apart a couple of years ago. This year, it was at the center of an argument, right after a storm roared through the woods between the towns and tore the hockey center in Hed all apart.

That was when Tails, the owner of Beartown’s grocery store, publicly suggested that Beartown share their arena with Hed’s hockey team – not admitting, of course, that in the meantime, all roads to his store would be cleared of debris.

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It was just before Maya came home for the first time since one of Beartown’s best hockey players raped her, and no one believed her. The storm arrived about the time Benji came home, too; he’d left Beartown when his best friend raped Maya, who was also his friend.

Peter and Kira were glad to have their daughter, Maya, home, but their joy was cut short by something that could land them both in jail.

“The Winners” author Fredrik Backman.

Bobo fell in love for the first time. Hockey parents pressured the committee to remove little Alicia from the team because she was out-playing the boys. There was a birth during the storm, and there was a death that shook Beartown to its core.

And fourteen-year-old Matteo hid from the storm in his neighbor’s basement. With everyone returning before hockey season started, it was the perfect time to even a certain score ...

At nearly 700 pages, one could argue that “The Winners” is a book that’s too big. That’s not totally wrong; in fact, there are times in this story where you might get confused and suddenly realize that you don’t care what happens next.

Take a deep breath. Carry on. Because every little loose end that hung from the first two books in this trilogy is wrapped up here, in ways that will shake you, charm you, and make you teary-eyed, told from a narrator’s viewpoint with an automatic behind-the-scenes that’s delectably dry and sometimes a little dark. Author Fredrik Backman tells this tale as he does others: convolutedly, frugally, almost stingy with threads that tie willy-nilly until the whole story makes sense with a satisfying bang.

You don’t have to read the first two books in this trilogy to understand this book but you’ll be happier with the story if you do. If you’ve already been there, done them, then grab a pillow on which to rest it because “The Winners” is a score.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books. Read past columns at marconews.com.