I’m trying to read more books that I choose for my own reading enjoyment. Not for review, but because I’ve been wanting to read them or they caught my attention. Most of them have been talked about ad nauseam or have been on my to-read list for a long time so they don’t really need a full review. But, I’d still like to give them some space here on the blog, so instead, I’m offering mini-reviews of the books that won’t get full-page space here.
US AGAINST YOU is the sequel to BEARTOWN and even though it would stand alone, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to read BEARTOWN first. You are so much more invested in the characters after the tragedies that happened in BEARTOWN.
US AGAINST YOU continues the story where BEARTOWN ended. Without giving any spoilers, the community of Beartown is recovering after a tragic incident that happened. The incident affected the families of Beartown as well as the hockey team. The hockey team is such a huge part of the community that its downfall affects the hospital, the factory, and every other business in the area.
When a politician starts making “friends” and “promises” the community thinks it may actually be able to recover. Unfortunately, it may just be at a cost.
Backman sucks you into the story page by page with a promise of a tragedy and even though you know terrible things are going to happen to the characters that you have come to care about, you keep reading because seeing how they have recovered before, you know they can again….you just don’t know which ones will be recovering and which ones will not have a chance.
Again, hockey plays a role in the story, like any character does, but this book, more so than BEARTOWN, focuses on the character’s lives, their families, how important their community is, and just what they will do for each other when everything comes crashing down. The people of Beartown are resilient and hopeful and loving even when hatred seems to be so prevalent among them.
When a book makes you shout “NO” when something happens, you know you are completely invested in the characters. I will miss the people of Beartown, but I feel better knowing they will be okay.
I was curious about this book. I had heard it was odd but quirky. I would definitely agree, but also disturbing in some ways. Keiko is quite different from everyone else and has spent 18 years of her life working in a convenience store. It’s the only job she has ever known. The life of the convenience store becomes a part of her so that her whole life is built around her work at the store. This story is set in Japan and is translated to English, so there are a few odd translations, but for the most part, it’s translated quite well. Keiko must have some form of autism which makes her make some choices first in childhood that are not considered “normal” like hitting a child with a shovel. As she grows she learns to adapt to societal norms with the help of her sister. When Keiko meets a fellow store worker, her life is impacted and she has difficulty with the consequences of including him in her life. I was pleased with the ending as I felt sorrow for Keiko and her new situation.
This is a very quick read and the convenience store itself is just as much a part of the story as Keiko’s life is. You may not be able to walk into one again without thinking of Keiko. If you like a strong plot or climax, this book isn’t for you. It’s more of a meandering story of Keiko and her unique interactions with others.
The book begins with Izzy starting a fire, but you don’t know why. Then it takes you into the story of two families and how their lives became intertwined. It started a little slow for me and frankly, was pretty depressing all throughout the book. This is not a happy story and if you like happy endings, you won’t find one here.
“It was the truth, she told herself; not a single word she’d said had been a lie. Omission, Pearl decided, was not the same as lying.”
Lies upon lies are what fill this book. When the lies come out, everyone gets hurt. But, not all the lies come out and you wonder how will the characters continue to live with themselves.
It’s definitely a character driven story and maybe there will be a character that you can identify with. But, I also am certain there will be characters you don’t like. Most of the characters in this story are incredibly selfish and make snap judgments and quick decisions that will impact others gravely. I did have some trouble keeping all the characters straight at first, mostly because I felt like the names didn’t fit the characteristics of the people. But, once I got into it, I wanted to know how these two families were going to co-exist and how it all led to the fire.
The story held my attention throughout the book and I cared about what happened. But, the most disappointing part for me was the ending. No closure. None. A quick, sharp ending that didn’t seem to match what I expected for the characters. But, the story as a whole, was worth the read.