Britt-Marie Was Here
By: Fredrik Backman
Publication Date: 5/3/2016
My Rating: 4.5 Stars From the bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, a heartwarming and hilarious story of a reluctant outsider who transforms a tiny village and a woman who finds love and second chances in the unlikeliest of places. Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. She eats dinner at precisely the right time and starts her day at six in the morning because only lunatics wake up later than that. And she is not passive-aggressive. Not in the least. It's just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention.
But at sixty-three, Britt-Marie has had enough. She finally walks out on her loveless forty-year marriage and finds a job in the only place she can: Borg, a small, derelict town devastated by the financial crisis. For the fastidious Britt-Marie, this new world of noisy children, muddy floors, and a roommate who is a rat (literally), is a hard adjustment.
As for the citizens of Borg, with everything that they know crumbling around them, the only thing that they have left to hold onto is something Britt-Marie absolutely loathes: their love of soccer. When the village’s youth team becomes desperate for a coach, they set their sights on her. She’s the least likely candidate, but their need is obvious and there is no one else to do it.
Thus begins a beautiful and unlikely partnership. In her new role as reluctant mentor to these lost young boys and girls, Britt-Marie soon finds herself becoming increasingly vital to the community. And even more surprisingly, she is the object of romantic desire for a friendly and handsome local policeman named Sven. In this world of oddballs and misfits, can Britt-Marie finally find a place where she belongs?
Zany and full-of-heart, Britt-Marie Was Here is a novel about love and second chances, and about the unexpected friendships we make that teach us who we really are and the things we are capable of doing.
“Backman has written another bestseller with his latest novel. While at first Britt-Marie seems intolerable and aggravating, readers are quickly endeared to her obsessive-compulsive ways and frank honesty. At first the writing style comes off sharp; however, readers quickly see that is how Britt-Marie processes the world and it too becomes something amicable. Heartfelt and truly stirring, Britt-Marie Was Here resonates long after the last page is read.” --RT Magazine
"Universal...Backman hits a nice note between overly sweet and hard-boiled fiction; excellent for book clubs." --Library Journal (starred review)
“The bestselling author of A MAN CALLED OVE returns with this heartwarming story about a woman rediscovering herself after personal crisis. Backman reveals Britt-Marie’s need for order….with clear, tight descriptions. Insightful and touching, this is a sweet and inspiring story about truth and transformation. Fans of Backman’s will find another winner in these pages.” --Publishers Weekly
"Britt-Marie’s metamorphosis from cocoon to butterfly seems all the more remarkable for the utterly discouraging environment in which it takes place." --Booklist
“A brilliant mix of belly-laughs, profound insight and captivating events delivered… with Backman's pitch-perfect dialogue and an unparalleled understanding of human nature."--Shelf Awareness
From the extraordinary author and Swedish storyteller, Fredrik Backman, with his award-winning debut, A Man Called Ove, delivers another zany character, BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE — A heartwarming, witty celebration of second chances, unlikely friendships, and the power of one person to make the world a better place.
Britt-Marie is age 63. Amusingly unconventional and idiosyncratic. Some may say eccentric. She does not like a mess. Her husband Kent said she was aggressive-passive. Known as nag-bag. All she ever wanted was a balcony. She wanted a husband who did not walk on the parquet floors with his golf shoes. If he could only put his shirt in the laundry basket and would say occasionally he liked the food.
She likes an organized cutlery drawer. Clean windows. Newly mopped floors. Her favorite “go to” must have cleaning tool of choice “bicarbonate of soda.” It wipes always all the flaws. Clean and new. Kent said she was “socially incompetent.” They were past their sell by date. She had enough. There were limits. She was leaving.
Britt-Marie likes things clean. An obsession. A need for order. Would be nice to be appreciated. Be noticed. She was critical, hard to please, judgmental, excessively particular about details. Easily disgusted. She is flawed, zany, funny, and possesses a great heart. Her compulsive tendencies are explained by her tragic past and history of being neglected and diminished by those around her.
Leaving her husband, she starts a new. She finds herself in Borg, a tiny, economically depressed “community built along a road.” Most of the town has been shut down, most of the residents have left, and the ragtag bunch remaining includes orphaned children, a criminal, a former star of the local football team (now blind), and the proprietor of the only business in town—who's in a wheelchair, and most likely an alcoholic. Plus her relationship with a rat (hilarious).
As a caretaker, her new job is a perfect fit!. She cleans and cleans. The defunct recreational Center in the fictional European town of Borg. With an array of interesting off-beat characters including two young children—Vega and Omar.
But behind the passive-aggressive, socially awkward misfit, is a woman who has more imagination, bigger dreams, and a warmer heart than anyone around her realizes. Love can be found in the most unexpected of places. A place of belonging.
Equally witty and poignant; Hilarious, insightful and moving, an inspiring story about truth, second chances, and rediscovery. Best of all, another important life lesson.
On a personal note, Britt-Marie is so much like my dad. At age 85, he is still a cleaning machine. Never get in the way of his cleaning. Heaven forbid you should come to the door after the floors have been freshly vacuumed. You will not be allowed to enter. Never interfere with his schedule.
I listened to the audiobook and Joan Walker's performance was amazing! A perfect entertaining Britt-Marie.
Highly recommend Backman’s latest novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer. The small book with a Big powerful important message and loads of heart! Top Novella of 2016.
About the Author
Fredrik Backman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here, as well as a novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer. His books are being published around the world in more than thirty-five languages. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children. Read More
New York Times Oct 29, 2016