The Deal of a Lifetime [Book Review]

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?

What is your legacy?

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman (cover) Image: a blue suitcase sits against a wall on a wooden floor, a straw hat is propped on one corner of the suitcase and a white bunny (stuffed) lies on the floor in front of the suitcase

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 the 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.

Amazon Rating: 4.2 Stars

My Thoughts:

The Deal of a Lifetime 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 storyline; 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 Deal of a Lifetime. 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

Captivating Opening Lines: In The Deal of a Lifetime, 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

The Deal of a Lifetime Book Club Discussion Questions: 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 outdated 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.”

Recommended: I love The Deal of a Lifetime! I’m enthusiastically 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. As noted above, I think it has rich discussion possibilities for book clubs.

Related: I’m a Backman completist! Here are his other books and a fangirl post:
A Man Called Ove
Britt-Marie Was Here
Us Against You (Beartown #2)
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer (novella)
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry
Ten Reasons I’m Thankful For a Favorite Author
***Updated to add: Anxious People is coming out September 2020.

My Rating: 5 Stars


The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman (cover) Image: a large blue suitcase sits on a wood floor and against the wall....a straw hat is propped on one corner of the suitcase and a white toy bunny lies on the floor next to the suitcase

The Deal of a Lifetime Information Here

Meet the Author, Fredrik Backman

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:, on twitter @baLoockmanland, or on Instagram @backmansk.


Have you discovered Fredrik Backman’s work?
Which of his books have you read?
Do you have favorites?
They are all very different!

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 for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text


Emily of New MoonRecently, I read Emily of New Moon. 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 an 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 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.



Looking Ahead!

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 and the recent installment (#18): The House of Unexpected Sisters

Do you follow and read the series?

House of Unexpected Sisters

Summary and Information Here

Let’s Get Social!

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

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  1. I’m currently listening to “Grandmother.” Is the Britt Marie in that book the same one in the other Britt Marie book? I’m hesitant to read this story because you mentioned it was sad and I don’t like to read as Christmas stories! I can handle some sadness if there’s a happy resolution. Is there?

    • Yes Sheila, it’s the same Britt Marie in both stories. Re sadness in Deal of a Lifetime…. I think the character is satisfied with the resolution but it isn’t a happy one. However, it’s not an emotional “make you ugly cry” emotional story….just sad in the “filled with regrets at the end of life” kind of way… my opinion. The story didn’t make me cry. Hope this helps Sheila! I’d love to hear what you think if you read it!

      • Hmm. That’s interesting that it’s the same Britt Marie. Thanks for clarifying the sadness part. I’ll think about reading it. So far I’ve liked both books I’ve read by Backman. Are you a crier in general? I am!

      • Ha! No I’m not a crier in general! I usually avoid overly emotional stories because I don’t enjoy crying through a book …..some readers want those reads and search them out….not me! In general I’m a stoic Scandinavian!

      • And I’m an emotional Italian! I don’t seek them out but I do cry easily! Haha!

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