Britt-Marie Was Here
The New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and Anxious People captivates readers with this “warm and satisfying” (People) story “about a woman rediscovering herself after a personal crisis…fans of Backman will find another winner in these pages” (Publishers Weekly).
Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. A disorganized cutlery drawer ranks high on her list of unforgivable sins. She is not one to judge others—no matter how ill-mannered, unkempt, or morally suspect they might be. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention.
But hidden inside the socially awkward, fussy busybody is a woman who has more imagination, bigger dreams, and a warmer heart that anyone around her realizes.
When Britt-Marie walks out on her cheating husband and has to fend for herself in the miserable backwater town of Borg—of which the kindest thing one can say is that it has a road going through it—she finds work as the caretaker of a soon-to-be demolished recreation center. The fastidious Britt-Marie soon finds herself being drawn into the daily doings of her fellow citizens, an odd assortment of miscreants, drunkards, layabouts. Most alarming of all, she’s given the impossible task of leading the supremely untalented children’s soccer team to victory. In this small town of misfits, can Britt-Marie find a place where she truly belongs?
Funny and moving, sweet and inspiring, Britt-Marie Was Here celebrates the importance of community and connection in a world that can feel isolating.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
She may be overly obsessive about cleaning and a tad too blunt with her opinions, but Britt-Marie’s flaws just make us love her more. The 63-year-old heroine of Fredrik Backman’s Britt-Marie Was Here has left her cheating husband and moved to the dying Swedish village of Borg, where she takes a job at the local rec center—nearly the only functioning business in the once-bustling town. From her unexpected talents as a first-time youth soccer coach to her hilariously judgy inner monologue, Britt-Marie’s intensity is a lot, which makes her journey towards self-discovery as hilarious as it is poignant and heartwarming. Pitiful Borg may not seem like the ideal place to undergo a personal transformation, but Britt-Marie and her new community have something incredibly valuable to offer each other: a reminder of how good it feels to be needed.
The bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with this heartwarming story about a woman rediscovering herself after a personal crisis. Sixty-three-year-old Britt-Marie is a gentle, extremely straightforward and believably flawed protagonist who, after walking out on her husband of 40 years, gets a job as the caretaker of the almost-defunct Recreational Center in the fictional European town of Borg. Here she meets several characters including two young children Vega and Omar, whose off-beat personalities and lifestyles contribute to her growing self-confidence and growth. Backman reveals Britt-Marie's need for order and her obsession with bicarbonate soda and Faxin a cleaning agent with clear, tight descriptions. The true highlight is Backman's exposition of Britt-Marie's subtle actions like the way she rubs her ring finger and thoughts. These details of Britt-Marie's character, what her husband cited as her being "socially incompetent," increasingly endear her to the reader. 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.
Enjoyed the book until I got to the end, not how I would have ended it.
The bonds that connect humanity
She grew up in the shadow of her late sister who was the sole member of the family who died during their car accident that her parents and herself survived in the physical sense ONLY. Her father rarely was home after the accident and eventually stopped coming back. Her mother drowned her pain in alcohol and medication, spending days in her bed, uncommunicative and abusive, both physically and verbally but it would be the cruel words that killed the child she’d yet had the chance to be.
She chose to remain in the home with her aging and ailing mother and was exposed to continuous and unrelenting emotional abuse from her Mother that had a debilitating devastating and disturbing impact on her. She reconnected with her neighbor, Kent who lived beside her since she was 5. They reconnected at her mothers funeral and he was newly divorced with 2 children and eventually the two married.
Britt-Marie wasn’t introverted as she was social inept and often inappropriate. Her replies to those who would find themselves in conversation with Britt-Marie, commonly received her replies as personal affronts on any myriad of things. She didn’t have any one topic or area in which she kept exclusive beliefs or opinions nor was she partial to any political, religious or social issues. She was uniquely her own sort and these regimented and unbending ways would be what always set her apart from all she came to meet. From Britt-Marie’s perspective, the offenses others often accused and defined her with, well they were not meant to be anything of the kind! They were simply mere replies to their queries and observations she experienced during interacting with others and thought her unsolicited advice she was mindful enough to give would be helpful or useful information.
Britt-Marie found herself leaving the man she was married to after a phone call from his lover, YOUNG lover informing her he had a heart attack and was in the hospital. After sneaking into the ward after hours, she spent the night holding his hand, reminiscing about his oppressive cruel and degrading comments about her to his peers or during business meetings, using laughter and joking tone that was perpetually at her expense. She had an impossibly high standard in which she held herself and others to regarding cleanliness, organization and in an atypical, most likely OCD or spectrum type way(ie:the order of cutlery in ones kitchen defined whether they were someone who was worthy and mentally sound or lazy, disorderly and clearly lacked self respect or esteem. She saw the world and situations in black and white and she measured or compared the worth of others by the standards in which she held herself and had compiled and concluded to be “THE WAY” unaware of how starkly different her ideals were compared to the outside world in which she had nothing to compare it to other than her home life and her marriage. Her oppressive mother and now husband BOTH taught her they and the rest of society shared her two captors and unwell views of social graces, expectations and her lack of social experiences or interactions left her with no metrics to compare with.
She decides she immediately needs a job. She visits the temp and job employment center that the government provides. Her worker is a very young woman who will provide to be Britt-Marie’s receiving end of uncountable offensive remarks and oddities. Yet, she will also be her most supportive, patient and biggest cheerleader as the story unravels.
Britt-Marie finds herself in a small town, victim to the financial crash, poverty and run down, filthy and desolate community that was showing signs of drugs, illegal sales from merchandise that would just appear. The community center in which the small group of children who were desperate for a mentor and coach for their favorite sport SOCCER. Soon she finds she is theirs. The acceptance she finds in these children, her ability to open herself to their pain, travails and traumatic experiences was unexpected. She soon found herself, friends and trust in the community gaining perspective about her life, her marriage and more importantly INDEPENDENT.
It may have been I wanted a different ending but I just wasn’t happy with the end. It wasn’t the end I felt the story should have yet when I began to think about Britt-Marie and who she was, the life she’d predominantly lived, the rules and lists she held herself to and accounted her worth by, it was a very appropriate way to close out this beautifully, complex, complicated, unusual yet not intentionally unkind you WERE CHEERING HER OWN.
The growth, the embrace from the community, her loyalty, kindness and compassion that she would show through actions of love- cleaning neighbors home, pizzeria, the children’s uniforms, styling a team members hair when he got ready for a date with another boy, in which Britt-Marie didn’t bat an eyelash. She was so strictly regimental with random things and lacked social grace in plenty but when it came to human beings and their happiness or their pain, sorrow and joy she would intuitively recognize it and could relate to that person allowing them to become more familiar with each of their quirks and behaviors.
Both, the town in which she went after Kent had cheated was the perfect place for an introverted and an exceptional idiosyncratic young senior who was not the only unique or atypical member of society that made up the Borg in which embraced Britt Marie
I loved A Man Called Ove. This book was similar but slower to me. About a third of the way through I almost gave up on it but forced myself to keep reading and was glad I did. A sweet story but definitely not fast-paced. The second half is better than the first.