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p29_Clipart_Book_Cover_1_BeartownBear Town by Fredrik Backman. Thorndike Press 2016. 340 pp.

This novel is written by the man who wrote A Man Called Ove, but is a very different kind of story and not at all humorous as was that story. It is in fact quite intense.

Bear Town is located at the end of nowhere. Its one claim to fame is its many competitive boys ice hockey teams. Boys start at a young age and keep working up to the high school team, and, if they are good enough, make the team. In this novel, everyone feels they have a chance to win the area championship. This would mean a match against their arch rival which is from a much more prosperous town with many more opportunities for their young men. A win could mean an opportunity for some of the players to move on to play professional hockey.

Most everyone in town is involved in some way either as a player, coach, sponsor or fan. Kevin is their star. His father wants to see him win, but never watches him play as he’s too busy making money. Amat comes from a much different background. His mother cleans for a living and is devoted to her son. Amat is small but incredibly fast.

After a big win, Kevin throws a party at his house when his parents are, as usual, away. At that party something happens that splits the town apart and changes things forever.

The novel is just not about hockey but about people. I gave this book to my 19 year old grandson to read and he enjoyed it as much as I did. – C.M.

p29_Clipart_Book_Cover_2_Miller's_ValleyMiller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen. Random House 20l6. 257 pp.

This novel is about a small Pennsylvania town in a river valley that is about to undergo a drastic change. For years, the townspeople have been more or less aware that some day the state government would try to build a dam that would turn their valley into a reservoir which would submerge most of their dwellings. People have chosen to ignore this or refused to believe it. But now they are facing the bitter truth.

The story is told in the words of Mary Margaret, or Mimi, whose family has owned its farm for generations. It begins in the 1960’s when Mimi is a child and through her words the reader gets to know her mother, a nurse and a very down to earth woman, her father who is devoted to his farm and his town, her reclusive aunt, Ruth, her rebellious and later dangerous older brother, Tom, and her friends and other villagers. The tale continues through the years up to the present day when Mimi is now a doctor and also a grandmother.

Anna Quindlen, the author, is unsurpassed in the way she builds a story and develops characters. I feel I know these people. I was totally absorbed by this book, one of the best I have read in a long time. – P.M.

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