Us against you is a sequel to ‘Beartown’ where Backman continues his story of an entire town in free-fall. It is my 4th book from Backman and what's consistent across all is his beautiful writing. It is so fascinating because I have smiled and cried within the span of a single sentence. That is Fredrik Backman for me in one line.
Us Against You starts where Beartown left off. Most characters continue their ordeal as Backman does not try to set this up as a standalone book. That is its biggest strength because it fully leverages the events from book one and their effects on the characters. Hence, the writing is deeper, with a myriad of emotions on display, showing us varying degrees of psychological impact.
Empathy in writing is commendable because Backman never takes sides. Each character's journey is unique, with their specific rights and wrongs. One person’s suffering is never seen as more than another because it does not work that way. Maya Andersson is suffering and what happened to her is awful. But each of her family members also suffers in their way, and Backman never trivialises all of this over what Maya has gone through. That was truly fantastic to read.
A peculiar aspect of Backman’s style is his tendency to distract, almost like a rope-a-dope. He purposely sets up something, only to get you to start thinking in a direction, and eventually, he goes the other way. It is common in thrillers and mysteries but not usually in contemporary fiction.
One of the most significant elements of Us Against You (like Beartown) is the usage of physical surroundings as a character. The jungle, the snow, and the cold empty streets add so much to the situation that no one is ever alone. Some aspect of Beartown is always around, living and breathing. A lot of fantasy writers do this very well. What differentiates Backman here is that it is almost effortless, without any elaborate descriptions.
As I ended the book, half smiling, half crying, my heart full of emotion, I got reminded of pro acoustic guitar players. They barely touch the strings, and yet, they move. Their hands run so effortlessly across the strings that you can’t even see it happen, and yet, you feel every note. All of this together feels like magic, and yet, the music you hear makes it real. That is the effect Backman has on our emotions. He certainly does on mine. Now I lie in bed, thinking about what I just read, waiting for his next…
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