Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman, translated by Henning Koch [in Library Journal]
One Monday in January, 63-year-old Britt-Marie enters an unemployment office, having last worked as a waitress in 1978. After decades of fastidious living – perfect cutlery drawers, coasters under every drink, dinner at six, beds disinfected with baking soda – Britt-Marie needs a job. She’s left her husband after his recent heart attack – news she received through his mistress.
With limited choices, Britt-Marie is now the caretaker of a neglected recreation center in an equally run-down small town. Although not in her job description, she becomes the de facto soccer coach for a motley crew of local kids.
Socially awkward though she is, Britt-Marie proves to be just the no-nonsense nurturer the children need; the adults – especially the town’s only policeman – realize soon enough that beneath all that compulsive cleaning is a genuine, caring woman who deserves much more than a life merely serving others. First introduced – with disdain – in My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry (2015), Britt-Marie gets a welcome chance at redemption.
Narrator Joan Walker takes on the eclectic cast with inspired energy, enhancing Fredrik Backman’s already delightful narrative with even greater charm. Following the international success of Backman’s debut, A Man Called Ove, any library growing its collection of feel-good fiction will want to acquire Britt-Marie with alacrity.