At a certain age, almost all the questions a person asks him or herself are really about one thing…
Okay, that’s not the first line of Britt-Marie Was Here, but it’s important…
So, another Fredrik Backman story. First there was My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry for book club at my local library. Not bad. Elsa and her grandmother were a little much. If I’d been reading it on my own, I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to get to know them better, but I’ve already written about that. It was nice discussing it with others. We each took something a little different from it, of course. One woman even loved the grandmother, further proving that my opinion is just my opinion.
Almost no one, in the book club or among the neighbors, was fond of Britt-Marie, but there was more to her than we first saw. As there was more to all the adults who live in Elsa’s building. We see each from the perspective of an awkward child who looks at the world through a lens her grandmother crafted. Before she dies, the grandmother sends Elsa on a quest that involves getting to better know her neighbors and the very real characters of her fairy tales. We get to follow along.
Yeah, it was worth reading despite my rough start.
Prickly, frustrated, frustrating Britt-Marie was the grandmother’s least favorite person. I was interested enough by the excerpt of more of her story from the back of My Grandmother, that I ordered it through interlibrary loan.
I also ordered Backman’s novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer. LOVED IT. You can read more about how much I loved it, and how much it made me cry, here.
So, yes. Britt-Marie.
Forks. Knives. Spoons.
In that order.
Britt-Marie is certainly not the kind of person who judges other people. Far from it.
But surely no civilized person would even think of arranging a cutlery drawer in a different way from how cutlery drawers are supposed to be arranged?
We’re not animals, are we?
It’s a Monday in January. She’s sitting at a desk in the unemployment office. Admittedly there’s no cutlery in sight, but it’s on her mind…
The First Lines of Britt-Marie Was Here.
Britt-Marie’s world had imploded.
So, yes, my First Line series is supposed to be first lines of books I’m starting, but…
Life happens, and I finished this one last night. Like the wonderful And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, it’s too late to invite you to read along with me, but it’s not too late to encourage you to take the time to read a good book, namely Britt-Marie Was Here.
There’s always more to people than we can first see. And, with most of the people we meet as we go through our days, there’s more to them than we will ever see.
Backman struck a good balance with emotion. Plenty of humor, whether it was Britt-Marie’s unintentional-at-first jokes or Backman’s straight-up humorous capturing of things in a single unexpected line. Witty. I actually had a few legitimate LOL moments.
When our lives get shaken up in ways we’d never choose, in ways that hurt, when we’re knocked sideways, what do we choose to do? When it was no longer possible to pretend her husband wasn’t unfaithful, Britt-Marie took her balcony plants and left the husband who was more interested in having people know how much he spent on his stuff than he did about her feelings or anything else about her. She landed in a place she never could have imagined existing, let alone living fully.
But she does, and finds her way.
Sometimes our way to the next place we need to be, the way back to ourselves and the lives that fit, is coming full-circle, back to what was important before it got twisted; sometimes it’s jumping into what can’t be known until it’s experienced.
What Britt-Marie has me thinking about this morning
Sometimes a decision we feel is for our own sake at the expense of someone else may not be as much at their expense as we fear. It may benefit them, too. Healthy boundaries are good for people on both sides. Codependency isn’t good for anyone.
Seriously considering how much choices for others’ sakes will cost us is healthy, beneficial, necessary. We may still make the same choice a doormat would, but we empower ourselves with understanding we really do have a choice. And we limit the danger of playing the martyr.
Everyone benefits when we choose to make our welfare a priority, understanding that our comfort, apparent safety, and preferences aren’t necessarily the same as what’s best for us. Sometimes the best choices are the most uncomfortable, even painful. Being healthy is about so much more than the physical, or even the emotional. It’s spiritual and relational; it’s about how we fit in the bigger picture, and doing our part to create something good. For everyone. We don’t all agree on what that looks like. But we can be humble about that, and respect others, without compromising our integrity.
…how should you live your life?
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