November 24, 2017
What would you be prepared to sacrifice in order to save a life?
What footprints are you leaving in your life? For what or how will you be remembered?
The Deal of a Lifetime
by Frederik Backman
Genre/categories: literary fiction, contemporary fiction, adult fairy tale, ambition, self reflection, end of life
In true Backman style, this is an intricately woven story of an unlovable, complex, and flawed character whom we begin to understand and care about as he faces the end of his life. Written as a last message from father to son and told like a fairy tale for adults, it’s a story of a legacy, ambition and success at all costs, fear of failure, the meaning of life, the commodity of time, an accounting of one’s life, and a father/son relationship. I hesitate to give details of the plot in this summary because I don’t want to spoil your read. Briefly, it’s the story of a successful and famous man in the mid years of his life counting the personal cost of his achievements and striking a last deal to make things right.
Although it’s sold as a novella, I consider it a short story. In reading Amazon reviews, I found that several readers that gave a 3 Star or lower rating cited their disappointment at the shortness of the work when they were expecting something longer for the price. I think this definitely affected the overall Amazon rating.
Amazon Rating (November): 3.8 Stars
This is a poignant, sad, thought-provoking, and compelling fairy tale for all adults who are contemplating the meaning and purpose of their lives. It’s a captivating and endearing last message from father to son.
In my opinion, this brilliant short story requires at least two reads. The first time through, I was preoccupied with the story line; and the second time, I focused on its deeper meaning and gained a greater appreciation for this beautifully crafted story. (I also raised my star rating!)
Be sure to read Backman’s forward as he explains his purposes for writing the story. This is an excerpt:
“Maybe all people have that feeling deep down, that your hometown is something you can never really escape, but can never really go home to, either. Because it’s not home anymore. We’re not trying to make peace with it. Not with the streets and bricks of it. Just with the person we were back then. And maybe forgive ourselves for everything we thought we would become and didn’t.” ~Backman
In the story, the man (self-described as ambitious, famous, rich, powerful, and an egoist) and a five-year-old girl are both in the hospital and battling cancer. Every night, “a woman in a thick, grey, knitted jumper walks the hospital’s corridors. She carries a folder. She has all [their] names written inside.” Here begins the story of a man making the final deal of his lifetime.
“…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…..Does it make a difference if I killed a good person? A loved person? A valuable life?”
~Backman’s opening lines
If we were in an IRL book club together, these are some discussion questions I might ask:
- Did the deal the man make release him from accountability for his life’s choices?
- Did the deal the man make continue to demonstrate his selfishness and need for power or does it reveal his selflessness?
- Now that you’ve read the story, does the title have more meaning for you?
- In the story, Backman says that the man’s wife has already given her life for her family. What do you think this means and can you relate to this sentiment? Is this an old-fashioned or out dated idea?
- Do you concur with Backman that time is our only commodity?
- How do you evaluate the point of view from which the story is told? Is it a concern that we don’t hear the son’s perspective? Do you think the man has an accurate perception of the son’s feelings toward his dad?
- Discuss the validity of this quote (part of the justification for how he’s chosen to live) : “Happy people don’t create anything, their world is one without art and music and skyscrapers, without discoveries and innovations.
All leaders, all of your heroes, they’ve been obsessed. Happy people don’t get obsessed, they don’t devote their lives to curing illnesses or making planes take off. The happy leave nothing.”
I love this book! I’m highly recommending it for fans of Backman, for those who appreciate the beauty of short stories, and for readers who might enjoy a thoughtful adult fairy tale about the purpose and meaning of life.
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
(if it had been a bit longer, I would’ve rated it 5 stars, but at the same time I acknowledge that it takes tremendous skill to write a profound short story)
Meet the Author, Fredrik Backman
Fredrik Backman, a blogger and columnist, is the New York Times bestselling author of A MAN CALLED OVE and MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE’S SORRY. Both were number one bestsellers in his native Sweden and around the world, and are being published in more than thirty-five territories. His other novels are AND EVERY MORNING THE WAY HOME GETS LONGER AND LONGER, BEARTOWN, and BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE. He lives in Stockholm with his wife and two children. Visit him online at his blog: FredrikBackman.com, on twitter @baLoockmanland, or on instagram @backmansk.
***Linking up with Puppies and Pretties for Reading Lately/November 2017
Happy Reading Bookworms!
“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes
“Reading good books ruins you enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
As part of the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club, I read Emily of New Moon (November selection) over the past two weeks. Somehow I missed reading this classic when I was a younger reader. Great literature can be enjoyed by all ages, and I enjoyed the read! If you haven’t read this, I’d encourage you to pick it up. In general, I encourage readers to occasionally read or reread a classic. It’s always amazing to me to read these older stories and appreciate the freedom , choices, and power women have today compared to the past, and to gain understanding of how restrictive ideas for women’s behaviors were portrayed and how that came to affect our lives as women in my generation grew up. It always makes me more cognizant of the words I use today when talking with young women. I want to be part of empowering women to be all they are created to be.
Do you plan to reread Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle before the movie release in March 2018? Or if you don’t know Meg as a literary hero, I urge you to pick up this science fiction story soon! The movie trailer will release this weekend (Sunday November 26), but there is a teaser trailer available now (see link). More Information Here
Movie Information Here
- Have you seen Wonder? I’ve heard enthusiastic reviews! It’s on my weekend “must do” list. See my book summary and review here. Movie trailer here.
I’m giving myself a break from heavier reading this next week as the season gets busier and returning to the lovely, delightful, and relaxing No 1 Ladies’ Detective series by Alexander McCall Smith for the recent installment (#18): The House of Unexpected Sisters.
Do you follow and read the series?
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I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.
Have you discovered Fredrik Backman’s work? Which of his books have you read? Do you have favorites? They are all very different!, thus ranking is a difficult task. However, this is an attempt to rank my favorites: A Man Called Ove, Beartown, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, The Deal of a Lifetime, Brit-Marie Was Here, and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. Which were your favorites? Gift yourself with some Backman while you’re shopping this year!