Books & Reading

First Impressions: Us Against You

I’ve read only the first eight chapters of Us Against You, but as expected, I love it. It helps that I’m motivated to know what happens to these characters and that I’m already attached to some of them. This story also naturally lent itself to a second book, simply because of the way the first one ended…when Maya tells her dad to “Build a better club.”

In the beginning of Us Against You, it’s not looking so likely that that will be possible.

I don’t like to spoil stories for people, so I’m not going to go into a whole lot of detail. I’ll simply share a few quotes/passages that have struck me so far:

…when politics work in our favor we call it “cooperation,” and when it favors others we call it “corruption.”

How’s that for some truth? In the context of the novel, it’s the politics of a local sports team: how it’s paid for, who runs it, and the importance of alliances and sponsorship. When someone pays for something, are we beholden to them to do things their way? And if we don’t, are they justified in pulling their support?

A long marriage consists of such small things that when they get lost we don’t even know where to start looking for them…. Two people who have loved each other for long enough eventually seem to stop touching each other consciously, it becomes something instinctive…. So when they disappear, no one knows why, but suddenly two people are living parallel lives instead of together. One morning they don’t make eye contact, their fingers land a few inches farther apart along the counter. They pass each other in the hallway. They no longer bump into each other…. Two drowning people with lead weights around their ankles may not be each other’s salvation; if they hold hands, they’ll just sink twice as fast. In the end the weight of carrying each other’s broken hearts becomes unbearable.

They sleep out of reach of each other’s fingertips. with no lips against hair, no breath against back. And night after night a single question slowly takes root inside both of their heads: Is this how it starts? When a relationship breaks down?

Fredrik Backman gets it so right on so many levels. He just understands people and writes them so honestly and openly and with such sensitivity.

Not one of his characters is perfectly good, and not one is perfectly bad. They are all a true-to-life mix of both, and Backman crafts them in such a way that one cannot help but see both sides of each.

If you’ve not read a Backman book, might I suggest starting with A Man Called Ove? It’s the book that caused me to fall in love with his writing style and his character portrayals. (Interesting side note: there is talk that Tom Hanks is going to produce and star in an American adaptation of the film. I saw the 2015 Swedish version (subtitled), and I liked it quite a bit, but I’d be interested in seeing what Hanks does with it.


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