Review: Brit-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

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☆☆➹⁀☆5 stars☆➹⁀☆☆

What it’s about:

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?

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My Thoughts:

Brit-Marie was introduced to readers in prior Fredrik Backman books as a tertiary character. Like the lead character in A Man Called Ove, Brit Marie is a supremely surly curmudgeon. She is uptight, passive aggressive, and judgmental. More likely, Brit-Marie is suffering from OCD. She compulsively makes lists, checks on things multiple times, and rigidly follows rules and archaic social mores. Her behavior makes her highly misunderstood by most, and minimized by her husband. In fact, her philandering husband makes her feel invisible. She feels like she is fading from all of society with each passing year. Author Backman poignantly depicts how much the elderly have to offer juxtapose to how little their old-fashioned skill sets are valued. He can turn a crotchety crank into a highly empathetic character you can’t help but love.

When Brit-Marie leaves her husband, she can only find temporary work in the rundown, dying town of Borg.   Her presence turns the town upside down. I loved her clipped, terse letters and calls to her social worker as she struggles to find her way. Through it all, Brit-Marie continually allows her common sense get in the way of her experiencing joy, fun, love and life in general. It takes an unlikely pet, a motely cast of town folk, and an exceedingly patient social worker to crack open Brit-Marie’s façade.

The youth of the town drive her crazy, but their little soccer team becomes her cause. This rag-tag group of unmannered misfits create havoc in her obsessively tidy life and home, and they eventually worm their way into her heart. After all, you can’t be invisible if someone needs you.

Backman’s stories are highly compelling. They grab your heart with a stranglehold. The settings are often a bit grim—cold harsh climates of Scandinavia or perhaps Northern Canada—but the fantastic characters always break the ice and melt your heart. Brit-Marie Was Here is a charming, funny, heart-warming read.

The audiobook is fabulously narrated by Joan Walker 

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