See this author?
His name is Fredrik Backman. Backman lives in Stockholm, Sweden, and his books are now sold all over the globe. His novels have been translated into more than 35 languages, but the truth of the matter is that they are all written in the same dialect of human compassion. If you have not read any of Backman’s work, I’m here to tell you that entering his world will change everything.
I first happened upon Backman’s heart when I picked up A Man Called Ove. I didn’t know a thing about Ove, or Backman, but the book’s description intrigued me. So, I gave it a whirl.
I emerged from this tale about a week later, drained. It had been a long time since a novel had packed such a raw, emotional punch for me, but there it was. I waxed rhapsodic in my 5-star review of Ove, lamenting that the story had to come to an end. And then, as we tend to do, I gave myself a little hug (since I couldn’t hug Ove), and moved on to my next read.
Then I read the incredible And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, which is a read-it-in-one-sitting story about how Alzheimer’s steals memories. That little book shattered my heart, and then somehow managed to glue it back together with hope and love. I’m still not sure how it happened. What was clear is that Backman has a gift.
Then, I read Britt-Marie Was Here.
I closed Britt-Marie and worried about my next 10 reads. Why? Because nothing would measure up. Nothing would consume me the way this novel had. How do I explain my love for this novel without sharing too much?
Britt-Marie is the kind of character that is typically on the outside of a narrative. She’s stuffy, haughty, and inserts herself and her unwanted opinions at inappropriate moments. The other characters typically can’t stand her. They stop talking when she enters the room. They call her names behind her back, like “nagbag” or busy body. In their defense, those names fit. And Britt-Marie was certainly a thorn in everyone’s side in the darling novel My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry.
In Britt-Marie Was Here, we get to delve into the person behind the curmudgeon. We get a glimpse of why Britt-Marie is as uptight as she is (she could make coffee nervous), and how her self-esteem desperately needs a proper boost. This is a woman who is so very ready to be loved. She, in turn, is so very ready to love. Anyone who can strike up an ongoing friendship with a rat (you’ll have to read the story to understand) is someone who desperately needs to be needed. And loved. And good heavens, I love Britt-Marie.
The joy of this novel is its humanity and its incredible humor. I can’t tell you how many times the characters made me belly-laugh, but it was plentiful! The dialogue is razor sharp. The compassion is contagious. I miss the characters of this novel so terribly that other novels are now coming up short. I still have a Britt-Marie Was Here hangover.
The bottom line? Backman’s writing is a gift to all of us. Every time he shares one of his remarkable, quiet, unassuming stories, he unabashedly exposes our hearts and minds to forgiveness and love. He helps us cherish life, and the souls who inhabit it with us. He makes the unlikable lovable, and clearly does not care one iota that you might not have enough tissues in the house.
If you’re new to Backman’s work, can I suggest that you start with A Man Called Ove? Then move on to My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, so you can be introduced to the harrumphing presence of Britt-Marie. THEN read Britt-Marie Was Here. I actually read Britt-Marie before My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, and it was a mistake. Not a terrible one, but a mistake nevertheless. While Britt-Marie Was Here can certainly be a stand-alone novel, your love for her will grow even stronger if you read the books in their intended order.
A Man Called Ove – 5 Stars
And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer – 5 stars
My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry – 5 Stars
Britt-Marie Was Here – 5 Stars (and my personal favorite)
There’s clearly a theme going on here…