A Life for a Life {Book Club}

A Life for a Life {Book Club}

Let’s jump right into what was probably my favorite scene of this section of The Deal of a Lifetime.  “So we liked the ferry, both of us, me the way there and you the way back. I loved leaving everything behind, but you loved standing out on deck and watching Helsingborg appear on the horizon.”

Leaving and returning – is that not the story of all our lives? There are the big moves but also the many comings and goings, as we travel to conferences, do visa runs, and so on. Does the unknown, the adventure, that comes with leaving hold an innate fascination for you, like it does for the main character? Or are you more excited to return home, like the son? Not being able to leave the city for almost six months due to Corona confirmed what I already knew: traveling and exploring new places is incredibly life-giving to me! Though that feeling of catching the first glimpse of your city, of your home, is certainly very special too!

This slight tangent aside, the scene also captures so well the relationship between father and son. Would it be possible for two people to be more different from each other? Their values, their approach to life – they seem incapable of understanding each other, of finding common ground. Until the very end. Only when he thinks he is dying does the father begin to appreciate his son’s character and the choices he has made. In this section, he goes from “you were a disappointment” to regretting not saying he was proud of his son and even seeing the town the way the son always had. “It was our town then, finally, yours and mine”. So very sad this only happened when it was too late. Oh to be someone who takes the initiative to build bridges with those I don’t immediately click with!

What did you make of the main character’s take on “happy people”? He says “Happy people don’t create anything…all of your heroes, they’ve been obsessed… The happy leave nothing behind.” I don’t agree but also don’t want to dismiss this out of hand. I’m convinced every human being creates (whatever form that might take for each of us) because we are created in the image of God, the ultimate Creator. We can’t help it.

I have also seen people who appear particularly obsessed or driven to achieve. Perhaps they achieve good things but it can often come at great cost to those around them.  The more I reflect on this, the more I wonder if this is an example of the duality we live in. The “imago dei” in each of us, yet our brokenness often twisting or subduing that urge to create, to bring about goodness for the benefit of others. Much to ponder there…

For such a short book, there is a lot to think and talk about! It felt a bit like a roller coaster – every time I turned the page, there seemed to be a different angle, something else to consider.

And then the plot twist! I did not see that one coming… What a journey the main character has been on, though! From running away from any kind of relationship and commitment to being willing to give up his future and his past for the sake of the little girl! And at a point when he really had things to lose.  At long last, he realized the treasure he had in his son. There may well have been ways to repair the relationship, yet he was willing to give it up. And when even more was asked of him, he did that too. I’m still not sure what it was that brought about that change. Was it encountering the little girl, who just took him as he was, who trusted and accepted, at a time when he was confronted with what really mattered in life? What do you think?

Thank you so much for journeying with me through this unusual story! Hope you enjoyed the ride as much as I did!

Join us in September as we read The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure by Shoba Narayan!

From Amazon: The Milk Lady of Bangalore immerses us in the culture, customs, myths, religion, sights, and sounds of a city in which the twenty-first century and the ancient past coexist like nowhere else in the world. It’s a true story of bridging divides, of understanding other ways of looking at the world, and of human connections and animal connections, and it’s an irresistible adventure of two strong women and the animals they love.

Here’s the schedule for the book:

Sep 1: Note, Prologue, and Ch 1-5

Sep 8: Ch 6-11

Sep 15: Ch 12-16

Sep 22: Ch 17-21 and Postscript

Photo by Fallon Michael on Unsplash


  1. Sarah Hilkemann August 24, 2020

    It felt like there was hope for things to change for the main character and his son- so sad that it wasn’t able to happen! The concept of the character giving up his life and it completely disappearing was striking to me. Not just that he made a sacrifice, but that his life was completely erased. It made me think about the people that we don’t pay attention to, who might feel like their life means nothing. How can I notice the people who feel unlovable, invisible, and like they could die and no one would even know?

    I also loved what you said, Bayta, that we all create. I love the diversity of what this looks like, the richness of God expressed in the creativity and ingenuity and resourcefulness of people. Creativity doesn’t have to mean art!

    I’ve loved reading these two books with you this month, Bayta! Thanks for leading us. 🙂

    1. Bayta Schwarz August 25, 2020

      I know! Right until the end, I was waiting for all the individual and relational stories to take a hopeful turn… From previous experience, Backman doesn’t tend to resolve everything (and I like that!) but he does generally leave his readers hopeful. I guess that is true here for the little girl but for the father and son, there is a “too late” 🙁

      I hadn’t thought about “giving up your life” from that angle but that’s so true! Your comment reminded me of a friend describing the season with really young kids as the “hidden years” so I guess that could be one example (of many).

      Yes, creating can sound very “grand” and like it only “counts” if someone officially recognises it as art. Yet so much beauty is created as we all just go about our lives and use the gifts we’ve been given!

      Thanks for joining in, Sarah! I’m excited for the September book as well!

  2. Rachel Kahindi August 28, 2020

    This one is really thought provoking. The concept of trading a life for a life rather than a death for a death is intriguing. I have a lot of questions. Can anyone say with certainty that the world would be a better place if certain people never existed? If this man feels he hasn’t lived a worthy life, why not change rather than erasing himself? Would his son really be better off starting over with a different father instead of healing the relationship? What is the guarantee the new father is any better? Will the little girl live a better life than the man did? What if she turns out to be evil? Are some lives more valuable than others? Speaking of a death for a death, it’s easier to accept an old man dying for a little girl. But it isn’t only his old age that’s going away, it’s him entirely.

    Ultimately, I find it a little horrifying (in a good way). The ripple effects of eliminating someone’s life would be extensive. It’s not a story about time travel, but it has the same problems. All the time travel books discuss what terrible things can happen in eliminating a life that was supposed to have been or saving a life that was supposed to have ended. It almost always creates more problems than it solves.

    1. Bayta Schwarz August 30, 2020

      So true! When you really start to think through the implications, things get very complicated… What a sobering reminder of how little we as human beings really understand…

  3. Elissa Picconatto August 31, 2020

    I really appreciate your words about creativity. No surprise, but I agree wholeheartedly, especially about creating for the benefit of others. 💗

    1. Bayta Schwarz August 31, 2020

      No surprise indeed 🙂 but still very lovely to hear from you!

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