Benny & Shrimp opens with Desireé (Shrimp) sitting on a bench in a cemetery. She is a young widow, who was married to a seemingly perfect man - Orjan. They had settled into a comfortable but passionless marriage when he suddenly died. But, she comes several times a week, sitting for an hour at a time. "Presumably in the hope of getting down to the right sort of grieving if I stick at it long enough."
Benny, an unmarried dairy farmer, who desperately needs and wants a wife to take care of him and his house, is also at the cemetery regularly. He attends the grave of his parents with great zeal, always gardening and cleaning. "Going to the grave is my only breathing space."
His parent's stone is beside Orjan's. Benny sits on the bench beside Shrimp. They are unaccountably annoyed with each other for being there. Until the day they smile at each other...
What follows is a telling of a burgeoning relationship from two viewpoints - his and hers, told in alternating chapters. Mazetti has done a phenomenal job of taking the same event or incident and completely changing it based on each character's outlooks, beliefs, dreams and hopes.
That initial smile? Each assumes the other was smiling for the same reason - they weren't. The two are polar opposites, with altogether different interests. What draws them together is passion, loneliness and ticking biological clocks.
Can these two thoroughly disparate souls find happiness together?
I found the two narratives of the same story utterly fascinating and couldn't wait to see what the other thought of the same incident. Neither character is willing to give in or back down and there's the story. What are you willing to sacrifice for happiness? How much would you give up?
Katarina Mazetti has created characters that evoke strong emotions. I changed my feeling for the characters many times over the course of the book. She presents both male and female viewpoints with equal skill and insight. I must admit though - I ended up liking Benny much more than Shrimp. Have you read it yet? What were your thoughts at the end?
Benny & Shrimp is set and was written in Sweden. It has just been released in North America by Penquin Books.