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Benny & Shrimp: A Novel

Benny & Shrimp: A Novel

3.8 25
by Katarina Mazetti

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The bestselling "offbeat, down-to- earth love story"(The Observer, London)- now available in the United States

An international sensation, this addictively readable tale asks the question: Why is it so impossible to get a relationship between two middle-aged misfits to work? The answer lies in the story of Shrimp, a young widowed librarian with a


The bestselling "offbeat, down-to- earth love story"(The Observer, London)- now available in the United States

An international sensation, this addictively readable tale asks the question: Why is it so impossible to get a relationship between two middle-aged misfits to work? The answer lies in the story of Shrimp, a young widowed librarian with a sharp intellect and a home so tidy that her jam jars are in alphabetical order; Benny, a gentle, overworked milk farmer who fears becoming the village's Old Bachelor; and an unlikely love that should not be as complicated as it seems. Reminiscent of the works of Carol Shields, this quirky, humorous, beautifully told novel breathes new life into the age-old conundrum that is love.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Benny & Shrimp is offbeat, charming and fun - and also seriously addictive. Katarina Mazetti understands that crazy little thing called love!"
Claire Cook, author of Must Love Dogs and The Wildwater Walking Club

"A charming and funny love story, about two lonely people on the brink of middle age."
The Times (London)

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sold by:
Penguin Group
File size:
598 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Who stands up for the dead?
Looks after their rights,
listens to their problems,
and waters their potted plants?

You'll have to be on your guard!

An aggrieved, single woman in a distinctly abnormal emotional state. Who knows what I might get up to at the next full moon?

You've read Stephen King, haven't you?

I'm sitting by my husband's grave, on a dark green bench worn smooth by use, and letting his headstone irritate me. It's a sober little chunk of natural stone with just his name on it—"Örjan Wallin" in the plainest of plain lettering. Simple, you might even say over explicit, just like he was. And he chose it himself, too; left instructions with the funeral director.

Just a little thing like that. I mean, he wasn't even ill.

I know exactly what message he was intending his stone to convey: Death is a Completely Natural Part of the Cycle.

He was a biologist.

Thanks for that, Örjan.

I sit here on my lunch break several times a week, and always at least once at weekends. If it starts raining, I get out a plastic raincoat that folds away into a little purse. It's hideously ugly; I found it in my mother's chest of drawers.

There are lots of us with raincoats like that, in the cemetery.I always sit here for at least an hour. Presumably in the hope of getting down to the right sort of grieving if I stick at it long enough. I'd feel better if I could feel worse, you might say. If I could sit here wringing out endless hankies without stealing constant glances at myself to check the tears were genuine.

The awful truth is, half the time, all I feel is furious with him. Bloody deserter, why couldn't you watch where you were going? And my feelings the rest of the time are, I suppose, pretty much like those of a child who had a parakeet for twelve years and then it died. There, I've said it.

I miss the constant companionship and all our daily routines. There's no one rustling the paper on the sofa beside me; no smell of coffee when I come home; the shoe rack looks like a tree in winter without all Örjan's boots and wellies.

And if I can't work out the answer to "Sun god, two letters," I have to guess it, or leave it blank.

One half of the double bed's always neat.

Nobody'd worry where I'd got to if I didn't come home because I happened to have been run over by a car.

And nobody flushes the toilet if I'm not there.

So here I am, sitting in the cemetery, missing the sound of the flush. Weird enough for you, Stephen?

There's something about cemeteries that always makes me think of some convulsive, second-rate stand-up comedian. Repression and gabbled strings of words, of course—but surely I can allow myself that? I haven't much besides my little repressions to occupy me these days.

With Örjan, at least I knew who I was. We defined each other; after all, that's what relationships between two people are for.

Who am I now?

I'm at the mercy of whoever happens to see me. For some I'm a voter, for others a pedestrian, a wage earner, a consumer of culture, a human resource, or a property owner.

Or just a collection of split ends, leaking sanitary napkins, and dry skin.

Though of course I can still use Örjan for defining myself. He can do me that one, posthumous favor. If Örjanhadn't existed, I could be calling myself a "single girl, thirty something"; I saw that in a newspaper yesterday, and it made my hair stand on end. Instead, I'm a "young, childless widow," so tragic, so very sad. Well, thanks for that, Örjan!

Somewhere there's a nagging little feeling of pure deflation, as well. I feel let down that Örjan went and died. When we'd planned our future, short and long term! A canoeing holiday in Värmland, and a high-yield pension scheme apiece.

Örjan should be feeling let down, too. All that tai chi, organic potato, and polyunsaturated fat. What good did it do him?

Sometimes I'm outraged on his behalf. It's not fair,Örjan! When you were so well-meaning and competent!

And there's an excited little flutter between my legs now and then, after five months of celibacy. It makes me worry I've got necrophiliac tendencies.

Next to Örjan's stone there's a really tasteless gravestone, an absolute monstrosity. White marble with swirly gold lettering; angels, roses, birds, words on garlands of ribbon, even a salutary little skull and scythe. The grave itself is as crowded with plants as a garden center. On the headstone are a man's name and a woman's name with similar dates of birth, so it must be a child honoring his father and mother in that over lavish way.

A few weeks ago I saw the bereaved by the monstrosity for the first time. He was a man of about my age, in aloud, quilted jacket and a padded cap with earflaps. Its peak went up at the front, American-style, and had a logo saying FOREST OWNERS' ALLIANCE. He was eagerly raking and digging his little plot.

There's nothing growing around Örjan's stone. He'd probably have thought a little rosebush totally out of keeping, since it wasn't a species native to the cemetery's biotope. And they don't sell yarrow or meadowsweet in the flower shop at the cemetery gates.

The Forest Owner comes regularly every few days, about noon. He's always loaded down with new plants and fertilizers. He seems to take great pride in his gardening, as if the grave were his allotment.

Last time, he sat down on the seat beside me and looked at me sideways, but he didn't say anything.

He had a funny smell and only three fingers on his left hand.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Benny & Shrimp is offbeat, charming and fun - and also seriously addictive. Katarina Mazetti understands that crazy little thing called love!"
-Claire Cook, author of Must Love Dogs and The Wildwater Walking Club

"A charming and funny love story, about two lonely people on the brink of middle age."
-The Times (London)

Meet the Author

KATARINA MAZETTI was nominated for the Prix Cevennes in France in 2007 and has worked as a journalist, teacher, and author of books for readers of all ages. For twenty years she lived on a small farm in northern Sweden, an experience that became the basis for Benny&Shrimp, her first adult novel, which was adapted into an award-winning film in Sweden (winning the Swedish equivalent of the Oscars).

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Benny & Shrimp 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
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!)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book years ago and still think of it often.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"C-Can you make me d-dissapear?"
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nursemaggiemay More than 1 year ago
I didn't love this book, but it was interesting enough to keep reading. The male character is a farmer and I could really appreciate the realness of his description of the life on a farm.
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VickiLN More than 1 year ago
Benny is a farmer who has never been married. His mother just died. Shrimp is a young widow. They meet at the grave site of their lost loved ones and share a bench. At first they can't stand each other. And although they are complete opposites, an attraction builds. It was fun following them through their relationship and finding out if they made it or not. The chapters are very short, just a few pages each, the first one starts with Shrimp as the narrator, the second one Benny, and so it goes throughout the book, sometimes telling their own version of the same incident. How can a neat and orderly semi-vegetarian and a messy farmer have chance at a relationship? I laughed, felt like crying and wanted to bang some heads together. I think the book is just the right length, if it had been longer I might have gotten tired of it all, but as it is, I felt the ending was timed perfectly.
TheBookResort More than 1 year ago
How much are you willing to sacrifice for love? What would you give up for happiness? Would you compromise -- meet half way for that one individual that stirs your soul? Caresses your spirit? Allow me to introduce you to Benny & Shrimp. Benny's a Swedish farmer, a 30 year old country boy, w/ cows, calves & sheep. Shrimp ~ Desiree ~ is a widowed Swedish librarian, who happens to be a vegetarian. Benny's searching for a farmer's wife & Shrimp wants someone cultured. Enter a cemetery of all places. Benny's grieving the devastating loss of his mother & Shrimp's mourning the painful loss of her husband. So, how on earth did these two to get together??? One day she smiled @ him & he smiled back... Told in alternating viewpoints w/ heartache & hilarity, Benny & Shrimp deliver their story from their own standpoint. Mazetti brilliantly crafted the short chapters showcasing Benny & Shrimp's outlook. Kudos to Mazetti for describing the same moment they remembered things but just like in "real" life it was somewhat different. Mazetti's writing is extraordinary. Sarah translated Mazetti's Swedish prose to English phenomenally w/o losing any of the mettle or vibrancy of the genuine love, frustration, pride, fear & tenderness these two wounded spirits feel. As Shrimp voices, "Love makes others into doves, gazelles, cats, peacocks, but I -- quivering, wet and transparent - am your jellyfish." I couldn't put down this quirky novel & found myself wondering what was going to happen next to the charming Benny & delightful Shrimp. The cliffhanger ending leaves me eager for more... This is a heartwarming story that proves love is for everyone!
jaimehuff1 More than 1 year ago
This book begs the question, do opposites attract and if so, can it work? That seems to be the theme of this book. Or is it, do two lonely people who are completely opposite fall for each other just out of need? Frankly, I loved this book. It was a fast read, passionate and left me wondering about Benny and Shrimp's relationship. I wasn't sure what I wanted from them. I wanted Benny to find a wife. I wanted Shrimp to be that wife. However, at the same, I didn't want Shrimp to be that wife. Contradictory, huh? On the other hand, I wanted Benny, the lovable farmer, to enjoy the culture that Shrimp wants to share but at the same time I wanted Shrimp to adapt to farm life. Sigh. Tis love, I guess. Sometimes books that were popular in their native language, doesn't translate well into English but that doesn't seem to be an issue here. From Swedish to English, the point, the prose and the love came across. Give this a chance, I am disappointed I didn't sooner. This is definitely one I will read again.
Twink More than 1 year ago
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? There is a great set of questions included as a Reader's Guide with the book. I think it would make an interesting selection for a book club.
gemlover More than 1 year ago
I have recommended Benny and Shrimp to a number of my friends. They all enjoyed this sweet romance. Benny is a lonely single farmer whose only company are his cows. Shrimp is a recently widowed young librarian in town who in retrospect questions what her marriage was really about. The awkward meeting of this "farm boy" and "city girl" in a cemetery is the start of a quirky love story that is a quick and fun read.
alexia561 More than 1 year ago
Adorable doesn't seem to be the correct word for this book because it isn't cute & fluffy, yet "adorable" is one of the first words that popped into my head when searching for a description. Also quirky, fun, odd, amusing, and wonderful! I really, really liked this book! It grabbed me on the very first page by the time I'd finished reading: You'll have to be on your guard! An aggrieved, single woman in a distinctly abnormal emotional state. Who knows what I might get up to at the next full moon? You've read Stephen King, haven't you? Benny single-handily runs a small family farm. Desiree (nicknamed Shrimp by Benny) is an intellectual who works at the town library. They meet at a cemetery of all places, as his parent's grave is near her husband's grave. At first, they are both irritated with each other for disturbing their graveside visits. They can tell at a glance that they have absolutely nothing in common and are from different worlds, which is why it surprises them both when they somehow fall into a relationship. Most of the story deals with the two of them trying to come to terms with their relationship, merging their two very different lifestyles, and working out whether or not they can make things work. They are both smart, likable, middle-class adults with lives of their own, which made a refreshing change from the stereotypical young 20 year old falling for the older rich bachelor. Loved the short chapters alternating between Benny and Shrimp's point of view. Especially when describing the same moment as they remembered things differently, just like in "real" life. I identified with Shrimp more so than Benny, but thought Benny was the more sympathetic of the two. Gave this book a 5 out of 5 rating as I enjoyed it so much and thought that both the writing and the story were above average! I'm also pushing this book on all of my friends and co-workers, as I think everyone will enjoy it. Hope you give it a try, as I think it's well worth reading!
ignacio_4_bn More than 1 year ago
This was a fun, light read that I was able to finish in about 3 sittings. There are a few characters that will grown on you. The author uses very descriptive language and had images running through my mind throughout the story. The beginning starts off kind of slowly but gets more interesting pretty quick. I'd say this is a good book to read when you need something to make you laugh out loud.
BloodyBad More than 1 year ago
Some books you fall in love with at the very beginning, from page one I was in amore with this little novel. It begins with Desiree sitting on the bench in front of her husbands grave. She is trying to feel bad enough about his death. Desiree is a librarian who lives in the city. Her apartment is in the minimalist in fashion and she dresses mainly in beige. While at the cemetery, she sees a farmer who is constantly planting things at the gaudy, over the top plot next to her late husband. That farmer is Benny. He has just lost his mother, the one person who held his house hold together. Benny milks his 24 cows twice a day and her tends to all the farms needs, after that he has little time for cleaning, cooking or worrying how warm it is in the house. Benny hasn't done anything to the house since his mother died, so it is full of her cross stitch and fake plants with a thick layer of dust to hold it all together. Sitting next to each other on that bench they see each other smile, and the sparks fly. Benny and Desiree (who he aptly names Shrimp) begin a whirl wind romance like none you have ever experienced. This novel was originally written in Swedish and now we have the tremendous opportunity to read this hilarious book by this inspiring author. If there was anything lost in the translation you would never know it. This novel is intelligent, hilarious, romantic, happy and melancholy all at one time. I would not be surprised to see this one on all the BEST SELLERS list very soon.
Elsie_Brooks More than 1 year ago
Benny & Shrimp is a fun read but it fell short in the end. Up until the final three chapters, I was held rapt by the novel. At times this narcisstic pair even made me laugh out loud and I loved the voyeuristic librarian who observed rather than lived. Until the end, I kept thinking that Benny was really too good for Shrimp and her beige, self-absorbtion; but, alas, Benny fell short on character, too.
Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
Benny and Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti features two middle aged people from two very different backgrounds. Shrimp is a widowed librarian who feels her biological clock ticking. Benny is a farmer, who had lived with his mother and after she passes away, he has a fear of becoming the Bachelor for Life. At a chance encounter at a cemetary, you read a story of a relationship of two very different people which leads to humorous and frustrating events. You will find the story is divided into both Benny and Shrimp's point of view and interchanges with each chapter you read. I like the way this is done. You get to see both of their viewpoints and it makes it a very entertaining and fun read. You get to read what makes both of them tick and what they really think but never had the heart to say to spare each other's feelings. I actually started laughing in the first few chapters it was that funny! as the story progresses I found myself laughing more especially when they starting buying each other gifts. You can just imagine two very different people with very different tastes trying to give each other presents. It's hilarious. When they're experiencing a rough patch in their relationship, you get to see both sides of the perspectives and you can't help to wondering which one is more funny, Benny or Shrimp. Everything is done in a clear and concise way, that you won't feel confused as you read this book. It's all written clearly and simply which gives the story a good overall clean look and feel. I love both of them. They're great characters. Shrimp lives the pampered cultured career woman life. She loves books, reading, her job, lattes, the opera, herbal teas. Yes you get the hint. Benny loves his farm, attending to his cows, he wants a wife that can take care of him and help maintain his farm. He loves "pimp daddy" clothing, that Shrimp thinks is absolutely gaudy, he has his mom's cross stitch work up on the walls of his house. So you can see how different they are. However when they come together it's like a chemistry and a passionate love which makes them feel as if they were teenagers on their first dates. Yet they have to work through enormous differences and a lot of sacrifices if they want to be permanently together. I loved how they argued; it mirrors all people's relationships; we fight over the most trivial things but yet in the end, love prevails and holds the bond together making forgiveness easier even if the apologies haven't been said. Pick this book up if you want a light hearted fast read. It'll make you laugh and smile, and perhaps even cry.
FeatheredQuillBookReviews More than 1 year ago
Benny is a lonely farmer, living alone in his parents' house, with a small herd of cows, some sheep, and a fridge with moldy containers that have been languishing since before his mother's death. Desiree, a.k.a. Shrimp, is a widower, living in town, working as a librarian. Both are approaching middle age with a sense that they might never find another love. These two lonesome people meet in the unlikeliest of places - in a cemetery. Shrimp visits her husband's grave several times a week, sitting on a worn green bench. Frequently, she must share that bench with a man she calls 'Forest Owner' (so named because of a logo on his cap), a man she doesn't like. The feeling is shared as 'Forest Owner,' a.k.a. Benny, notes, "Damn and blast! I can't stand her, just can't stand the sight of her!" Who would expect that these two would soon fall in love? Benny and Shrimp are soon passionate lovers, trying to come to grips with very different lifestyles. Shrimp lives in an extremely tidy apartment, close to work while Benny lives far removed from the bustle of town, on a smelly farm, in an unkempt house. Will their love be able to survive their differences? Benny & Shrimp, originally published in Sweden, follows the love affair of the above-mentioned couple, from their first meeting, through early courtship, into the ups and downs of relationships. It is written in the first person, but what makes this novel unique is that that voice switches between Shrimp and Benny. Each short chapter is given to only one person's telling, recounting their various dates, sexual encounters, reactions to the others' friends, and disagreements. Many of the chapters tell of the same event, first from Shrimp's eyes, then Benny's. It is interesting to read how the same incident can be interpreted two different ways. For instance, Benny fixes up one of his rooms. He notes: '.I took her up to the bedroom, flung open the door, and tried to sound like a trumpet fanfare. She stared. "Oh...very nice!" was all she said. I just stood there, crestfallen.' In the next chapter, we read of the room cleaning from Shrimp's eyes: 'I had to fight back a violent urge to giggle when I first saw the curtains.I had absolutely no intention of expressing any opinion on his decorating tastes.' There are similar recollections throughout the book, from the pair's first meeting to their first fight. It's certainly fun to see how differently they sometimes interpret the same event. Benny & Shrimp starts out a bit clumsy, perhaps because the text was translated from the original Swedish. Sentences such as, "I sit here on my lunch break several times a week, and always at least once at weekends," makes the reading a bit difficult. The translation problems, fortunately, disappear fairly quickly. It also takes a while for the author to get into the meat of the story, with a plethora of chapters devoted to Shrimp's previous life with her husband as well as Benny's life prior to his parents deaths. True, it helps to understand the characters to know where they are coming from, but the author dwells on earlier events a bit too much. Fortunately, once the love affair gets hot and heavy, the book too gets steamy and fun. In the end, Benny & Shrimp is a touching story about two lost souls who find love. Quill says: Keep reading beyond the slow beginning and you'll be rewarded by an unconventional love story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
In northern Sweden, librarian Desiree the "Shrimp" is adjusting to becoming a widow while Benny the dairy farmer works his family land. Neither realizes how lonely they are until they unexpectedly meet at a cemetery where Benny is visiting his late mom and Desiree her recently deceased spouse. Each is reticent but attracted to the other. They hit it off as each finds a need fulfilled with the other. However, soon after the first euphoria wears off, Benny prefers cows while Desiree devours books. Desiree detests his dilapidated farm while Benny loathes her indifference towards housekeeping. However, as their social diversity proves wider than the Baltic Sea, they both fear loneliness and rationalize the sex is great; but at night alone each ponders is that all there is? The story line rotates perspective between two lonely thirtyish people who find a precarious relationship that is anchored on sex as they share little else in common. Both characters are fully developed so that the audience can see what motivates them and especially what turns them off; ironically their significant other fails to comprehend what makes them shut down. Well written, the plot makes a strong case for compatibility as opposites may attract but cannot remain cohesive. Although the ending is forced and feels unrelated to what has happened between the librarian and the farmer, fans will enjoy Katarina Mazetti's answer to the Beatles' question of Where do all the lonely people go? (Eleanor Rigby). Harriet Klausner