It Demands We Risk Our Dignity {Book Club}

It Demands We Risk Our Dignity

Want to join in reading a memoir in September? Make sure you check out the info at the end of the post!

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I have the post-book blahs—or Britt-Marie might call it “Book Club Flu”—as we finish discussing Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Bachman. Oh Britt-Marie, once again you have lined up with the theme of the week: Welcome to Team.

No surprise, Kent is a very bad “teammate.” He did seem to be trying in this last section of the book, and maybe he did the best he could, but his efforts were disappointing. As Britt-Marie said, if he would have only asked about her injured hand she “might have believed that [he] actually cared.” Watching Kent and Sven jockey for Britt-Marie in this section I felt conflicted, but I also felt happy for Britt-Marie to get a taste of her worth.

Kent and his “bad teammate” behavior aside, this section seemed to capture the beauty of overseas teams. I never got to pick my team, I was always assigned or teamed with other people who worked in the same office I did. This means I became friends with some unlikely people. One of my teammates, who became a good friend, was a good couple of decades younger than me. I remember when it hit me that I was basically her mother’s age?! What?! But when the options to “friends” were limited, it turns out that basically anyone is friend material.

Overseas teams are often brought closer though unusual circumstances, be it housing related, a medical situation, or traveling that forces you to let others see behind the tidy surface. Britt-Marie grew to care for Sami, Omar, and Vega all the more after she and Sami smoke and drink whiskey and he tells Britt-Marie about his dad being run off and his mom dying on a work trip. Sami was wise beyond his years when he said, “Vega’s afraid, even though she mainly seems angry. Omar is angry, though you’d probably think he was afraid.” If only I could remember that is true of most people I interact with too. Thank you, Sami, to remind us to look beyond the obvious when it comes to relationships.

The difference between good and great teams? Just ask Vega (a girl), Toad (too young), and Max (his dad is a jerk). They could not imagine life without soccer and without playing together, even if the rest of the world told them to move on. Did you yell a little bit when Ben scored? I know I did. “All passion is childish. It’s banal and naïve. All other emotions belong to the earth, but passion inhabits the universe.”

The narrator keeps asking “how should you live your life?”

At first, Britt-Marie could not understand why Vega blocked a shot with her face and Mas risked his leg on a play. First thoughtfully, then hesitantly Vega asked Britt-Marie, “Have you never loved anything like that?”

“Ha. No. I . . . ha. I don’t know. I actually don’t know.”

But we find out she did know. When she whispered “Paris” and then went on to explain how she needed to be the sensible one when her sister was reckless and then the sensible one because Kent was reckless, my heart melted a bit for her. I love that Vega is blowing on the embers of Britt-Marie’s hopes. This section reminded me that passion is the secret sauce of teams, not outcomes.

When Britt-Marie stood on Sami’s grave and said, “I want you to know, darling boy, I’ll never regret coming to Borg.” I wept. Because this too is what team can do.

It can make the hard, gut wrenching parts worth it. There are parts of life that I can also honestly say that even though it cost me and was hard, I do not regret it.

What did you think of the ending? Will Britt-Marie return to Borg? Will she and Kent get back together? At some point, do you think she will divorce and start dating Sven? I was happy that she did not race into a relationship with Sven too quickly. Ah, I’m a little sad to come to the end of Ove, Grandmother, and now Britt-Marie.

In the end, I think we all want to be like Britt-Marie and know that we “were here.” That our lives matter, that we are noticed, and that we are loved. Thank you for letting me host this month and chiming in the discussion. It matters and I am grateful.

Until our next book,

Amy


We hope you’ll join us for our September Book Club book! We will be reading a memoir called Born A Crime by Trevor Noah. We also wanted to give a little warning that this book contains 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!

Here’s the reading schedule for the book:

September 3: Chapters 1-5

September 10: Chapters 6-11

September 17: Chapters 12-16

September 24: Chapters 17-18

8 Comments

  1. Sarah Hilkemann August 26, 2019

    This book did NOT end the way I was expecting! I loved the development of the characters and the ways they grew together over the course of the book. I’m a fan of unlikely friendships and this book was definitely full of them! 🙂 It has reminded me yet again to get to know people and their story. If I had met Britt-Marie in person, like if she joined my team, on the field, I’m so sad to say I would have been instantly annoyed and not wanted to get to know her. But as I learned her story, watched her do her thing and grow and change, I definitely changed my opinion of her.

    It was super fun getting to read this book with you, Amy! Thanks for jumping in and leading us through it. 🙂

  2. Lisa Neumann August 27, 2019

    Sorry, which version of Trevor Noah will we be reading? The link points to the Young Readers edition.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann August 27, 2019

      Hi Lisa! We are reading the main version, and I just got the wrong link in this post. I will update it. 🙂 Thanks!

  3. Shelly August 27, 2019

    I am just catching the tail end of this book discussion, but I read it in the spring and absolutely LOVED it. (I should add that I listened to this book shortly after listening to A Man Called Ove, and they both delighted me.) I laughed and cried, and I was compelled to step back and take a look at myself. In what ways am I like Britt-Marie, keeping people at a distance yet longing to draw near, to know that I belong? (I’m sure I have my own annoying ways of going about things! I’ve been on enough teams to know that is true.) In some ways Borg reminds me of the Island of Misfit Toys; everyone seemed to have some kind of “defect.” Orphaned, disabled, ill-fitting wherever they were. Yet they grew to accept each other a they were in Borg, and they did the same when Britt-Marie arrived. She was finally welcomed as she was. I enjoyed watching her unfold, grow into herself, become aware of what she wanted in life and all that she had stifled for others. Amy, I wonder some of the same things – will she return to or leave Kent, or will she go to Sven? I also wonder if she will choose to be independent, unattached to others, who, in the past, seemed to dictate who she could be. If Vega and Omar are still in Borg (I can’t recall) I think she will return to Borg. And Sarah, I also liked the unlikely friendships that developed, and the way they did so even though the characters were annoying in their own ways (thinking of Ove and Britt-Marie). And, I would also struggle to make room for someone like Britt-Marie on my team. I’d try…but i don’t know how long I’d last if I were doing it in my own power. I know I’d do better at this point in my life than in the early days of living on teams; I have grown up some. 🙂 Such a delightful book. I recommend it EVERY TIME someone asks about good books to read.

  4. Bayta Schwarz August 27, 2019

    Wow! I was on tenterhooks all the way to the end! And I actually like the ambiguous ending!
    At times, I did find myself rooting for Kent! There seemed to be signs of hope, like when he joined in with the football and lost his shoe, but in the end I kind of think he would have slipped back into familiar patterns.
    I keep having to think about how Britt-Marie made such a difference to the community and to so many individuals, pretty much despite herself. Isn’t that what often happens? We have grand plans and strategies, but then where God really uses us to touch lives might be in places and situations that aren’t even on our radar!
    I will miss all the characters!

  5. Denise Beck August 28, 2019

    I was so surprised by the emotions I felt “listening” to this book. I teared up. I laughed out loud (alone in my car). I looked down to see goosebumps on my arm as the emotions reminded me so much of putting on a new culture. It felt so uncomfortable, at first. Itchy. The wrong size. But by the end I am hesitant to pull it off because It has become my favorite. Thanks Amy for guiding us through this month.

  6. Sonja September 17, 2019

    Thanks, Amy, for another great book club. We finally got it from Overdrive to listen to it and finished it tonight. We stopped it about 10 minutes from the end and had a great discussion as a family about whose door we thought or hoped she’d knock on and why. I’m glad the author left the end ambiguous because life is like that and doesn’t always wrap up neatly. I loved seeing the impact Britt-Marie, with all of her imperfections, had on Borg. It is so encouraging to me that you don’t have to be perfect to be used and to make a difference.

    1. Amy Young September 17, 2019

      Sonja! Ah, libraries are wonderful but sometimes the timing of material can be tricky :). I”m so glad you were able to listen together and I wish I had been with y’all to discuss this in person!!!

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