“My one vote doesn’t matter.”
“They won’t miss me–I’ll just be in the way.”
“One person can’t change anything, the system is too corrupt.”
“You can’t do anything that will really make a difference–you need money.”
If you’re like every other human alive today, you’ve made some of these excuses to get out of helping somewhere. I know I have. Like every human being alive, you’ve also made a positive difference to someone or some animal or in some situation. Maybe you’ve even done this in a big way. But, too often, we feel we can’t do it alone. The red tape–those pesky government regulations that seem to be everywhere when you want to just fix something that is broken. Or the money seems to be too much to ever raise. Well, over the weekend I enjoyed one book that proves this wrong and does so without preaching a sermon or making the disgruntled come together in a weepy group hug or anything else silly like that. Naturally, the book comes from Sweden. Why naturally? Well, the media seems to tell us that everything is fabulous in (take your pick) Sweden, Finland, Norway, The Netherlands or some other so-called Northern European country, right?
Fredrik Backman, who gave us the fabulous curmudgeon in A Man Called Ove, returns with someone who might be the female counterpart to Ove–Britt-Marie. Always both names, because only her sister called her Britt. For 40 years Britt-Marie has cleaned and done what her husband, Kent, wants. But Kent, has had enough of Britt-Marie and suddenly her life has to be re-started. She’s been told by Kent that she has horrible social skills so she phone-stalks the young woman at the employment office until she gives her a job. The job lands her in the dying rust-belt-ish town of Borg.
While cleaning and Kent still seem to control her thoughts, little by little Britt-Marie starts the journey that so many women of a certain age make to reinvent herself. Along the way, Britt-Marie not only puts IKEA furniture together for the first time, but she comes to understand that soccer is a metaphor for life (well, at least in the Premier League. Or is it the Super League? No matter–think Soccer’s NFL). Along the way she finds, like I did in my real life, that the opinion of ONE PERSON should never control your destiny.
This is not a super-precious story of one person turning a blighted town into a utopia. No, those are called Fairy Tales. This is a story that could be happening down the road from any of us. One woman, armed with window cleaner of a certain brand (No, not the Windex of My Big Fat Greek Wedding!) and the need to get through one more day, makes something better. And, in doing so, changes her destiny just enough.
Book clubs will LOVE this book, but so will you, even if you aren’t a woman of a certain age. Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman.