Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is a fairy tale for adults.  Written by Fredrik Backman, whose debut novel A Man Called Ove was one of my favorite books last year, “My Grandmother” shows that stories save us. Precocious Elsa and her grandmother don’t fit regular society and Backman’s words propel the reader into their unique world:

"Elsa is seven, going on eight.  She knows she isn’t especially good at being seven. . . . Adults describe her as “very grown-up for her age.”  Elsa knows this is just another way of saying “massively annoying for her age,” because they only tend to say this when she corrects them for mispronouncing “déjà vu” or for not being able to tell the difference between “me” and “I” at the end of a sentence. Smart-asses usually can’t, hence the “grown-up for her age” comment, generally said with a restrained smile at her parents. As if she has a mental impairment, as if Elsa has shown them up by not being totally thick just because she’s seven. And that’s why she doesn’t have any friends except Granny. . .

Granny is seventy-seven years old, going on seventy-eight.  She’s not very good at it either. You can tell she’s old because her face looks like newspaper stuffed into wet shoes, but no one ever accuses Granny of being grown-up for her age.  “Perky,” people sometimes say to Elsa’s mum, looking either fairly worried or fairly angry as Mum sighs and asks how much she owes for the damages. Or when Granny’s smoking at the hospital sets the fire alarm off and she starts ranting and raving about how “everything has to be so bloody politically correct these days!” when the security guards make her extinguish her cigarette. . . .

She used to be a doctor, and she won prizes and journalists wrote articles about her and she went to all the most terrible places in the world when everyone else was getting out. She saved lives and fought evil everywhere on earth. . . . But one day someone decided she was too old to save lives."

Elsa’s life was complete even though she had no peers, but then Granny died. That meant an end not only to their friendship but also to the tales Granny told about the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas that paralleled the lives of the people in their apartment building. It also meant that Elsa had an assignment; she was to deliver Granny’s letters of apology to the building’s residents via clues to where to find each letter.

In the midst of her grief, Elsa must enlist the assistance of an extremely large, very shy, germ-fearing neighbor known as The Monster, a giant dog, and a cast of unusual neighbors. Elsa must also manage her fears about what life will bring when her workaholic, pregnant mother gives birth.

With multiple subplots and eccentric characters galore, the reader can get lost but Backman faithfully steers the book back to the essentials. Elsa and her companions remind us that stories and our connections to each other matter even when adults are too busy and too self-involved to notice and that grieving isn’t easy.

Summing it Up: Read this fanciful tale to remind yourself that stories matter, that children often see what’s important and that a little suspension of belief can be good for the soul. Read it to slip into Elsa and Granny’s world where charm and tenderness triumph over cynicism and grief. Read it because a book doesn’t have to be perfect to touch your heart.

Rating: 4 stars   
Category: Fiction, Grandma’s Pot Roast,Dessert, Soul Food, Book Club
Publication date: June 16, 2015
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1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one. I loved Ove so much that I was kind of afraid to try to read another book by Backman. I am really looking forward to picking this one up