Tag Archives: Fredrik Backman

THE DEAL OF A LIFETIME

EXCERPT FROM PREFACE

The last several years, my husband and I have hunkered down in our log cabin and let Christmas pass rather uneventfully. Our kids are far away and have their own lives. But something triggered my need for Christmas spirit this year.

Maybe it was the current political distemper infecting our lives, the loss of several good friends, and the rapidly declining health of my siblings. What ever. I found myself reflecting on my blessings to have a warm roof over my head, plenty to eat, wonderful friends, and reasonably good health for a woman of 70.

My husband, paddling around the discount book sites came across The Deal of A Lifetime by Fredrik Backman.

Isn’t this author one of your favorites? Have you read this book? No, I replied. It is a novella. Actually more a short story so I have passed on buying it.

Not long after, while poking around for something Christmas themed to read and considering revisiting Ebenezer Scrooge and The Christmas Carol, I bumped into The Deal of A Lifetime once more – and bought the discounted Kindle version.

I was moved by the author’s emotional preface. Christmas is nigh, his family is asleep nearby while he sits, poised with pen in hand, to work out the kinks in his mind. In my opinion, the underlying emotions revealed in the preface are reflected in themes of the story. It is not hard to see that he is contemplating the possibility that if he had taken a different direction at one of life’s intersections things might have been better for his family. He comes to the conclusion that “we discover we need someone one to sweep us off our feet to realize what time really is.”

The story opens with a shocking letter from a famously successful and wealthy father to his son. It is intended to shock the reader into attention. As we will learn, the estranged father has made contact with his son, now an adult. He realizes he doesn’t know anything about him.

“Hi. It’s your dad. You’ll be waking up soon, it’s Christmas Eve morning in Helsingborg, and I’ve killed a person. That’s not how fairy tales usually begin, I know. But I took a life. Does it make a difference if you know whose it was?”

Without revealing too much of the story, a self-righteous man bumps up against life’s final hurdle – death. Much like Scrooge, this unnamed man finds himself wealthy beyond measure and lonely. His greedy nature had shielded his heart from his humanity.

While hospitalized for chemotherapy, he over hears a little girl telling her stuffed rabbit that she is going to die soon but she hopes it isn’t going to be tomorrow. He is startled when she runs away suddenly after spotting someone in the hallway. He is surprised to see the same someone he has meet before throughout his life when he had been in a life-threatening situation.

A woman in a thick, grey, knitted jumper… She carries a folder. She has all our names written inside.

Without revealing names or spending time in character development, The Deal of a Lifetime, in 65 pages, exposes our human weaknesses and our ability to atone for callous behaviors that had stifled or alienated us from those we love. It is a story offering the chance at redemption – with a twist ending I didn’t see coming. As an added bonus, the simple illustrations are charming.

Pick up a copy at the book store or check-out a copy from your local library.

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A Man Called Ove

Very goodEvery year I find that one book stands out in relief from all the others.  Sometimes it has made me laugh or cry, sometimes it makes me think about an issue from another perspective and sometimes it just entertains.

In 2014 that book was A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

I received the advance ebook from NetGalley and very quickly spread the word that this book was going to be a hit.  As a matter of fact my book club, The Blue Ridge Readers, will be reading this book next month.  What follows is the edited book review I placed on Goodreads.com.

I just read one of the best books of the year (2014). I laughed, chuckled, roared and admittedly shed a few tears.

Ove endured an unbelievably tough childhood filled with loneliness and lack of nurturing. Forced to survive on his own he structured his life around rules and principles. Over time he formed a crust over his personality that seemed to harden him into an ill-tempered old neighborhood crank.

Thankfully for Ove there were people who saw the cracks in the crusty soul and loved him deeply. The love story of Sophia and Ove will leave you in tears. Ove could not have foreseen his future the day the neighbors moved in and ran over his mailbox.

Poor Ove, despite his attempts to alienate children, cats and kooks, his snappy one-liners and his over-sized kind heart couldn’t fool anyone who took the time to look closely at the man. As Ove would say himself, “It isn’t what a man says that matters, it is what he does.”

Ove was obsessed with his car, a Saab, and the company was so enthralled with the story of Ove’s life they uncharacteristically did a book review on their company’s website. First published in Sweden, it has been translated into English. A must read!

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