If you are tired of reading books that have gorgeous heroines with fantastic jobs and great bodies who find love with a handsome, rich guy, and are looking for something a little more realistic, Benny & Shrimp by Swedish author Katerina Mazetti is out there for you just waiting to be read.
Shrimp is a young, sad widow visiting the grave of her husband, who died several months ago. On the bench next to her is Benny, visiting his parents' gravesite. Whereas Shrimp's husband's grave is spare, just a natural stone chunk with plain lettering, Benny's parents' gravesite is garish, overly decorated with white marble, gold lettering, lots of plantings and statues.
Benny is a thirty-something milk farmer, living alone on the family farm, trying desperately to make it work. Shrimp works at the town library, lonely except for a single friend Marta. Benny wants to date, and his mum used to nag at him to find a girl.
As if they existed somewhere, a flock of willing girls, and all you had to do was go out and select one. Like taking your rifle out in hunting season to bag yourself a hare.
Benny decides to take a chance, and he follows Shrimp back to the library and taps her on the shoulder. Although she is at first rude to him, they go to lunch and when Shrimp tells Benny it is her birthday, he takes to her a department store and starts picking out gifts for her. (Aww- so sweet!)
So begins their intense love affair. Shrimp is not a woman many people would notice. She is thin, mousy and people were surprised when she married her much better looking husband. Benny is overweight, has three fingers on one hand, and smells like manure. But their physical relationship is hot. Shrimp says
He hadn't just turned my head, he rotated it so many times that it came off and I had to hold it on a string like a balloon, while my body twisted and wallowed.
Mazetti's way with words is delightful. She crafts her sentences so thoughtfully, it is a joy to read them. Benny describes Shrimp's all white and metal decor in her apartment by saying that
(B)efore I know it, somebody will stick their head around the door and say, "Do come in. The doctor will see you now!"
Benny and Shrimp are really opposites in many ways. He spends twelve hours a day farming, in muck and mud. He is looking for a wife, a partner to help him and live his lifestyle. Shrimp likes her lifestyle- she enjoys her job, books and opera. The life of a farmer's wife does not suit her. Can their love overcome these differences?
The author has written an adult novel, one in which two people who love each other have to decide if they can make a big sacrifice for the other. She puts her characters in situations that people can relate to, and just when you think you have this story figured out, she throws in a big curveball at the end of the story that you don't see coming.
I read Benny & Shrimp in one evening. I fell in love with Benny and Shrimp, (more Benny than Shrimp) and rooted for their unlikely love affair to last, even though a voice in my head said the obstacles were likely insurmountable. (Be quiet, voice in my head!)
Rating 4 of 5 stars