If the name Britt-Marie rings a bell, it may be because you have read Backman’s My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry where this gentle, interesting character briefly appeared.
Based on that brief introduction to Britt-Marie I didn’t think I would her all that likeable. Was I ever wrong! So glad I did not pass on Britt-Marie was Here (2014) by Fredrik Backman.
Britt-Marie is 63 years old and has recently left her husband Kent. Walking out on an unappreciative, philandering man was a major decision for Britt-Marie. She had never worked outside of their home, had rarely left the house and had very little experience interacting with others.
Everything Britt-Marie lacks in social skills and experience leads to quite a funny opening scene between Britt-Marie and a young woman at the employment agency. Eventually a position is found for Britt-Marie as a caretaker of a recreation center in the small dying town of Borg.
The job is temporary because the center is to be closed down and basically abandoned. The pizzeria/post office/grocery/pub next door is the only place that appears to show any use. Except that is for a small group of ragtag kids playing soccer in the parking lot using cans of soda as their goal posts.
Britt-Marie isn’t sure where to begin in her new position as caretaker. So, she starts with what she knows best…cleaning. As long as she has a supply of baking soda and her favorite window cleaner Faxin, Britt-Marie feels safe.
Several different residents of Borg, both adults and young people become part of Britt-Marie’s new life. “Somebody” (yes, that is a character’s name) runs the pizzeria. Sven is Borg’s policeman and seems to have taken to Britt-Marie. Bank, a woman who is nearly blind, rents a room to Britt-Marie. I cannot forget Kent even though it would be easy to do.
Also, part of her introduction to life in Borg are the soccer players. Vega and Omar and their older brother Sami. Plus, Pirate (aka Ben). It is this group of kids who open Britt-Marie to a whole new life. The kids need her on so many levels. They beg her to be their soccer coach. An adult coach is an immediate need if they are to play in an upcoming soccer competition.
Mind you, these kids love soccer. They do not have a field where they can practice, no uniforms, no adults who can support their efforts and they live in a town where all hope has been lost. They are expecting Britt-Marie to be all of that.
I was pleasantly surprised by Britt-Marie was Here. Not only did Britt-Marie make me smile, I laughed often as I read. Her story is touching, sad in places, but overall, Britt-Marie was Here being a fun read about a quirky lady who shows more courage than she ever would have guessed.
NB: Make sure your cutlery drawer is organized properly before reading.
If you are a fan of Nelson DeMille and his John Corey Series in particular, you may want to give Radiant Angel (2015) a try. It is the seventh in the series.
Radiant Angel has a very timely feel to it in that it deals with a country that has been making headlines in recent months…Russia. It is rather like hearing about the Cold War all over again but with technology that was not even thought about back in that time era. DeMille has kept up with the times.
John Corey is now part of the Diplomatic Surveillance Group. Not necessarily his choice of jobs. His main duty is to watch Russian diplomats who work at the United Nations.
As usual Corey does not follow the rules in the playbook. But, that is just the kind of character that makes for interesting reading. It is under his watch that it is discovered Colonel Vasily Petrov who is posing as a diplomat is off the radar.
Tess Faraday, new trainee, and John take advantage of a catering service to slip into an exclusive Southampton dinner party. They are not exceptionally believable as caterers but manage to gather some intel. Petrov has managed to slip away from the party via one of the luxury yachts.
Corey has received word of the possibility of a suitcase nuclear weapon has made it to the United States with the target being Manhattan on September 12. The Russian’s plan is have all the blame put on the Saudis. Corey’s job is to find the target.
With all the talk recently about the resurgence Putin and Russia, this novel can certainly make one snap to and at the very least think about the possibility that this novel’s scenario could occur.
John is his usual irreverent self in Radiant Angel. Although I felt something was absent that was in the early John Corey Series. Maybe John’s age is showing or it could be the missing John and Kate connection. If you are a John Corey fan you will want to give it a try.