Three years change a person.
When I started this blog, I had never left the United States. Now, I have a new job, relationship status, and home in the Land of the Rising Sun. Life tossed me into a whirlwind of adventure. If you’d like to read more about my real world escapades, you can here.
My love for literature remains unaltered. In college, reading was a joyful requirement through which I dreamed of everything I wanted my life to be. Now that I’m living and working abroad, English books are a necessary luxury. They keep me connected to my home. Japan is a far cry from Minnesota, but my latest author obsession offers me the essentials of Midwestern existence: snow, lutefisk, and passive aggression.
Fredrik Backman is the author of A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Britt-Marie Was Here, and And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer (a novella). He also has a new book, Beartown, coming out soon.
Excepting the novella, I’ve read all of his released works. I began with A Man Called Ove, and if you’re interesting in picking up his work, I would suggest the same. Ove’s story is one of painful and inevitable change. Backman slips snippets of the past into his narrative of the present, revealing what made Ove a man who installs a ceiling hook for the sole purpose of holding a noose. Despite its dark beginning, I would describe this book as one of the most authentic love stories I have ever read. I recommend it to men and women alike.
His next book, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, also takes place in Sweden, but has no connection to his first novel. Elise also suffers from the pain of inevitable change. Her grandmother is diagnosed with cancer. After her death, Elise is entrusted with a series of apology letters for the residents of her building. Even though she’s only a little girl, you get the same pithy humor from Elise that gave Ove his spunk. This novel is tinged with mystery and contains a set of characters to make your heart ache. Elise’s bildungsroman is a lesson in empathy.
Britt-Marie Was Here is a bit of a spin-off of the previous story. In that tale, Britt-Marie, a nag, and her husband Kent, a wang, live in the same building as Elise and her grandmother. Britt-Marie’s sister died when she was young, and ever since, Britt-Marie has shouldered the burden of being the one that should have died. Years of neglect and pseudo-love take their toll on her well-being until one day she has a revelation. I can’t tell you more without giving away key plot points of the previous novel!
Backman’s ability to create unexpected conflict between cringingly realistic characters entertains me without fail. He’s funny, honest, and empathetic. I can’t wait to read Beartown.