My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman (an Edelweiss review copy)
If author Fredrik Backman were here I would give him a hug. I would cook a meal for him and if he were here now I would serve my strawberry pie. Why? Because he wrote this book. This book is a marvel and I can’t remember when I slowed down so much while reading something because I truly didn’t want it to end. I wanted to be with these people longer. I wanted Elsa to be in my family and I want, I can only aspire to be Granny. She’s crazy. She’s righteous. She’s an army. She is Elsa’s army.
This is how chapter 5 begins: “Having a grandmother is like having an army. This is a grandchild’s ultimate privilege: knowing that someone is on your side, always, whatever the details. Even when you’re wrong. Especially then, in fact.” That paragraph was read at least a dozen times and then I closed the book and thought about it.
Elsa is almost eight years old and a character like her you won’t meet again soon. She is more astute than most adults I know. She’s different and suffers for it among her peers. But she has Granny, her best friend. Granny tells Elsa fairy tales from the Land-of-Almost Awake, a land filled with dragons, knights, people and places. Each a serious place of respite and relief for the abuse Elsa suffers in school. The fairy tales help Elsa cope and sleep.
The apartment house Elsa and her pregnant mother, step-father, grandmother and assorted lost souls inhabit is its own little world. As we read and understand about these people, the more we understand the fairy tales. And you do need to pay attention to the fairy tales because Mr. Backman doesn’t remind you of little facts. In fact he will outright tell you, on the page, if you don’t remember then you weren’t paying attention back there. Granny sends Elsa out on a treasure hunt and in this hunt she and we learn the stories of the strange reclusive people who inhabit the apartment house and their connection to the fairy tales.
I smiled a lot. A lot. I didn’t laugh out loud because as I read I was ‘getting it’ but I do so love Mr. Backman’s way with telling a story.
This is a story about being different and how ok that is. It’s the story of a little girl who is unlike any you will meet. It’s a story of how a Granny adored, took up the sword for and taught a little girl it’s ok.
I thought A Man Called Ove was a terrific story but this….well, this is a whole different level of terrific.