by Fredrik Backman
Available on Amazon »
Peter comes home and sits down at the table next to Kira. They don’t know if they will ever stop feeling ashamed that they were forced to give up. How can anyone lose like this without dying? How does anyone go to bed at night, how do they get up in the morning?
•There are few words that are harder to explain than "loyalty." It's always regarded as a positive characteristic, because a lot of people would say that many of the best things people do for each other occur precisely because of loyalty. The only problem is that many of the very worst things we do to each other occur because of the same thing.
•She will always be this to them now: at best the girl who got raped, at worst the girl who lied. They will never let her be anyone but that. In every room, on every street, in the supermarket and at the rink, she will walk in like an explosive device. They will be scared to touch her, even the ones who believe her, because they don’t want to risk getting hit by shrapnel when she detonates.
•The world becomes much easier to understand and much less terrifying if you divide everything and everyone into friends and enemies, we and they, good and evil.
•Why does anyone care about sports? There’s a woman in the stands who cares because they’re the last thing she’s got that gives her straight answers. She used to be a cross-country skier at the elite level. She sacrificed all her teenage years to skiing long-distance trails, evening after evening with a headlamp and tears streaming from cold and exhaustion, and all the pain and all the losses, and all the things other high school kids were doing with their free time that she could never be part of. But if you were to ask her now if she regrets anything, she’d shake her head. If you were to ask what she would have done if she could go back in time, she’d answer without hesitation: “Train harder.” She can’t explain why she cares about sports, because she’s learned that if you have to ask the question, you simply wouldn’t understand her answer.
•“When something goes right for a team everything feels easy, so it automatically goes even better. But if you can cause a bit of trouble for them, only a very little bit, you’ll soon see that they manage to create a lot more trouble for themselves.” It’s about balance. The slightest puff of wind can be all it takes.
•A team is waiting in a locker room, sticks in hand, waiting for a game to start. A little brother is waiting on a bench with a phone in his lap, waiting to see what his friends will write about his sister on the Internet when they find out what’s happened. A law firm gets a call from a wealthy client, and at another law firm a mother starts a war. The girl goes on playing her guitar until her best friend falls asleep, and in the doorway stands a father, thinking that the girls will survive this. They’ll be able to deal with it. That’s what he’s afraid of. That that’s what’s going to make the rest of the world go on thinking that everything is ok.
•There will be days when Maya is asked if she really understood the consequences of going to the police and telling the truth. She will nod. Sometimes she will believe that she was actually the only person who did understand. Much later, in ten years’ time, she will think that the biggest problem here was actually that she wasn’t as shocked as all the adults were. They were more innocent than she was. She was fifteen and had access to the Internet; she already knew that the world is a cruel place if you’re a girl. Her parents couldn’t imagine that this could happen, but Maya simply hadn’t expected it to happen to her.
•Words are small things. No one means any harm by them, they keep saying that. Everyone is just doing their job. The police say it all the time. “I’m just doing my job here.” That’s why no one asks what the boy did; as soon as the girl starts to talk they interrupt her with questions about what she did.
•Peter and Kira wake up happy. Laughing. That’s what they will remember about this day, and they will hate themselves for it. The very worst events in life have that effect on a family: we always remember, more sharply than anything else, the last happy moment before everything fell apart. The second before the crash, the ice-cream at the gas station just before the accident, the last swim on holiday before we came home and received the diagnosis. Our memories always force us back to those very best moments, night after night, prompting the questions: “Could I have done anything differently? Why did I just go around being happy? If only I’d known what was going to happen, could I have stopped it?”
•Kevin gives him a quick hug, so fleeting that no one would notice, but still so hard that it speaks volumes. He can never sleep after games, and that’s the only time he smokes. Only best friends know that sort of thing about each other. Only two boys who once lay side by side under the covers, reading comics by flashlight and realizing that the reason they always felt like outsiders was because they were superheroes.
•Robbie Holt is standing in the street hating himself. He wouldn’t have gone outside voluntarily today unless he’d run out of drink at home again. He looks at the roof of the rink, estimates in his head where they ought to be in the game now. It’s a peculiar sort of angst, the one he lives with, knowing that you had the greatest moment of your life at the age of seventeen.
•The storm of laughter from all the juniors makes the room shake. In the end even David smiles, and he’ll think back to that moment many times afterward: whether a joke is always only a joke, whether that particular one went too far, whether there are different rules inside and outside a locker room, whether it’s acceptable to cross the line in order to defuse tension and get rid of nerves before a game, or if he should have stopped Lars and intervened by saying something to the guys. But he does nothing. Just lets them all laugh. He’ll think about that when he gets home and looks his girlfriend in the eye.
•That tendency exists in all sports: parents always think their own expertise increases automatically as their child gets better at something. As if the reverse weren’t actually the case.
•Being a parent makes you feel like a blanket that’s always too small. No matter how hard you try to cover everyone, there’s always someone who’s freezing.
•A long marriage is complicated. So complicated, in fact, that most people in one sometimes ask themselves: “Am I still married because I’m in love, or just because I can’t be bothered to let anyone else get to know me this well again?”
•She’s ashamed to admit it to herself, but getting to work feels like a liberation. She knows she’s good at her job, and she never feels that way about being a parent. Even on the best days—the tiny shimmering moments when they’re on holiday and Peter and the children are fooling about on a beach and everyone is happy and laughing—Kira always feels like a fake. As if she doesn’t deserve it, as if she just wants to be able to show a photoshopped family photograph to the rest of the world.
•All adults have days when we feel completely drained. When we no longer know quite what we spend so much time fighting for, when reality and everyday worries overwhelm us and we wonder how much longer we’re going to be able to carry on. The wonderful thing is that we can all live through far more days like that without breaking than we think. The terrible thing is that we never know exactly how many.
•“Culture” is an odd word to use about hockey; everyone says it, but no one can explain what it means. All organizations like to boast that they’re building a culture, but when it comes down to it everyone really only cares about one sort: the culture of winning. Sune is well aware that the same thing applies the world over, but perhaps it’s more noticeable in a small community. We love winners, even though they’re very rarely particularly likeable people. They’re almost always obsessive and selfish and inconsiderate. That doesn’t matter. We forgive them. We like them while they’re winning.
•One day he’ll stop adding and subtracting income and expenditures in his head all the time. There’s an obvious difference between the children who live in homes where the money can run out and the ones who don’t. How old you are when you realise that also makes a difference.
•The town wakes early, like it does every day; small towns need a head start if they’re going to have any chance in the world. The rows of cars in the parking lot outside the factory are already covered with snow; people are standing in silent lines with their eyes half-open and their minds half-closed, waiting for their electronic punch cards to verify their existence to the clocking-in machine. They stamp the slush off their boots with autopilot eyes and answering-machine voices while they wait for their drug of choice—caffeine or nicotine or sugar—to kick in and render their bodies at least tolerably functional until the first break.