I find myself at odds, in trying to describe Britt-Marie Was Here. It’s an extraordinarily odd little story, and yet I kept going back to it. I was never sure whether I was enjoying it, but I wanted to find out how it ended. I’m still not certain how to rate it.
Britt-Marie is a brusque, socially awkward woman who has no sense of how her literal, dour comments affect the people around her. Having just surprised herself by walking out on her cheating husband, she’s at sea in the world. She has no employment-related skills, but insists upon a job in a downturned market. She starkly demands the things she wants from the people whom she might be better advised to politely ask for help. But slowly, those in her circle adjust to her manner and grow to understand her intentions. They find a way to connect. Over time, Britt-Marie makes (almost, kind-of) friends.
Because Britt-Marie was such an odd little woman, I struggled to relate to her, but Backman makes some of the supporting characters warm and easy to connect with. Others, not as much, and because the town was so filled with oddities, sometimes whole sessions of reading just seemed strange. But others were charming, and I really did want Britt to settle into a groove and find happiness in Borg. I’m still not sure what I think of the ending.
As usual, Backman writes with precise emotional acuity. In this case, it made me uncomfortable at times–I think I prefer when his subject waxes a bit more lyrical as it did in And Every Morning…, but I do love the messages and lyrical high points he crafts in Britt-Marie Was Here.
Sweary; enough so that I’m not sure I would have finished it if I hadn’t bought the book, if that’s helpful. 2 stars.