In Which Britt-Marie Reminds Me of Tom Hanks {Book Club}

How deliciously appropriate that in the week Velvet Ashes says, “Welcome to the field” we can say “Welcome to the Soccer Field!” to Britt-Marie. It goes without saying that she was surprised to find herself as the new coach.

Today we are discussing chapters 10-18 in Britt-Marie Was Here. But before we jump in, I want to circle back to the first appearance of Britt Marie’s dinner companion from chapter eight. I can hear Britt Marie sigh and talk about sticking to schedules and commenting that ignoring schedules is what is wrong with society today. But Britt-Marie, hear me out.

I’ve been holding this insight in for an entire week and I just might burst if I don’t share it.

Knowing Britt-Marie’s obsession with being hygienic, she surprised me when she made dinner—aka opened a candy bar—for the rat, complete with a folded napkin and a reminder to the rat that dinner time was six o’clock sharp. In my notes I wrote “Winston!” and thought of the movie Castaway. I sobbed when Winston, the volleyball that the Tom Hanks character had named and befriended, floated away. Though not a “real” person, Tom and Winston’s connection was genuine and I couldn’t bear his loss without tears.

In my notes I wrote, “It is difficult at times to know who you are when you are alone.” Britt-Marie is a castaway too. In the aftermath of her life exploding, like Tom, she finds herself making unlikely connections as she is needing to rediscover herself. (One could argue she needs to discover herself, no “re” about it. The death of her sister in childhood sure influenced her emotional well-being.)

Which brings me to today’s section and three types of connection Britt-Marie is starting to make.

1. First, she is beginning to connect to a group, in this case the soccer team. When Britt-Marie and Pirate stepped outside to talk during the big match and the team scored and they were locked outside. As she frantically tugs on the handle Pirate says, “It’s important that we stay out here, because while we were out here we scored! We’re bringing good luck out here!” Of course she thinks this type of logic is unreasonable, but she stays put. “Because it’s the first time in an absolute age that anyone has told Britt-Marie it’s important for her to be somewhere.”

Over and over as I read this section I thought about the relationship between being included and being connected.

2. Second, Britt-Marie is beginning to connect to herself. As the start of Chapter 13 says, “A balcony can change everything.” At least for Britt-Marie. We each have something that makes us feel like ourselves in a new setting. If I have four “essentials” I feel home in a new location: a decent cuppa in the morning, as my Scottish friends call black tea with milk (no sugar for me), my clothes put away, my books on shelves, and a few dishes to eat on in the kitchen . . . that can change everything. A gal I knew who lived in the hinterlands of Asia, craved color. Once she bought a few colorful pillows and cloth to hang on her wall, she was more herself.

We are also seeing Britt-Marie’s sense of humor emerge. In the first section of the book, any jokes she made were accidental and she thought people were laughing at her because that’s what Kent did. When in her dry way she said Bank’s problem wasn’t with a lemon but with a soccer ball, “They all laughed. Britt-Marie doesn’t get angry about it. It’s a new feeling for her.”

Sometimes in a new setting you connect with yourself in a new way that you couldn’t in your old environment. Yes, Kent was a jerk, but we have all experienced different parts of ourselves blossoming every time we are in a new setting.

3. Third, Britt-Marie is beginning to connect with individuals. Sami and his cutlery drawer. Somebody as an actual friend. Finding out why Pirate’s nickname was Pirate and vowing always to call him by his real name, Ben. And Sven showing her his favorite place outside Borg.

Britt-Marie has also had her own scary run-in with Fredrik, the adult bully, and was defended by two of the “bad” young adults. But even these bad eggs are beginning to be known by Britt-Marie and she can see where their loyalty comes from.

What examples did you notice of Britt-Marie connecting to a group, herself, or individuals?

Two things tickled me in this section. Though Fredrik is a jerk, I find it humorous the author named the bad guy after himself. And Britt-Marie is still calling the woman at the employment office and never introduces herself, just jumps in to the conversation. Though I don’t share that critically. Obviously not.

I look forward to chatting in the comments! Until next week and Chapters 19-26,

Amy

Reading schedule for Britt-Marie Was Here:

August 20: Chapters 19-26

August 27: Chapters 27-38

P.S.- Are you new to the field or heading that way soon? Check out information about Amy’s upcoming book, Getting Started: Making the Most of Your First Year In Cross-Cultural Service!


In September, we will be reading a memoir called Born A Crime by Trevor Noah. You can check out the Amazon summary below! We also wanted to give a little warning that this book contains some profanity. If that’s an issue for you, there’s also a young adult version that you can read as an alternative and still join in on our discussion!

From Amazon:

“Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.”

5 Comments

  1. Bayta Schwarz August 15, 2019

    Should have commented before reading the next chunk – oops 🙂 I loved seeing her take little steps that from the outside probably looked like nothing but that took so much courage!
    Also, did you know the book has just been made into a movie? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMqulGtodRw

    1. Sarah Hilkemann August 15, 2019

      Bayta, I didn’t know there was a movie! I remember watching A Man Called Ove right after we read it in book club, so I will have to check this one out. 🙂

  2. Rachel Kahindi August 15, 2019

    It’s interesting that Kent was always telling Britt-Marie that she needed to be more socially aware, but as long as he was around, she couldn’t. Now, for the first time in a long time, she made a joke, didn’t get angry about people laughing, and has a friend. She is becoming more socially aware now that Kent is gone. I’m so proud of her.

    1. Amy Young August 16, 2019

      I feel the same Rachel! I’m proud for the risks Britt-Marie is taking and the way she is trying to be more socially award (and yet also true to herslf, let’s be reasonable, she’d say) 🙂

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