After enjoying Fredrik Backman’s breakout novel, A Man Called Ove, I decided to pick up his second novel, a delightfully deceptive story about an almost eight year-old girl who is mercilessly ridiculed for being different.
Set in Sweden, it is apparent that the herd mentality against the kid who happens to be a square peg is universal.
Also universal, the power of storytelling to heal even the most broken of hearts and bring generations of family members and strangers alike together.
That being said, there are no spoilers ahead and the title is linked to Amazon.
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. Fredrik Backman, Washington Square Press, 2015. 370 pages.
Like Backman’s first book, the author returns with a story that centers around a protagonist who feels like an outsider looking in at everyone else who is living a normal life.
There’s a quirky cast of characters among the neighbors and an underlying feeling that there’s more going on in the ‘hood than meets the eye.
First and foremost, there’s Elsa’s grandmother, a woman with a storied past that she keeps secret from her granddaughter. She’s also bat-shit crazy–but in a fun way. For instance, she’s been known to go out on her balcony wearing only little more than a smile while she fires her paintball-gun at random strangers.
Who wouldn’t love a Granny like that? Elsa’s world revolves around Granny and vice-versa. In fact, Granny has taught Elsa a secret language and tells fairy tales about the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas where being weird is celebrated as heroic.
Granny lives in the same building as Elsa’s mother and her new husband, who are expecting a new baby. Everything is about to change in Elsa’s life with that half-sibling’s impending birth.
Plus, there’s the kids at school. Most days, Elsa has to run home from school, a trail of bullies in pursuit.
And then, as if Elsa doesn’t have enough problems, Granny is diagnosed with cancer and passes away.
Granny’s death is devastating, but Elsa can’t mourn for long. Granny has given her a mission. To deliver a series of letters to people she has wronged. And in doing so, Elsa learns more about herself, her mother, her neighbors and especially her grandmother than she could ever imagine.
This story will take you on a ride. I was crying by page 44 (as well as other places) and laughing out loud throughout.
Backman is gifted at capturing the poignancy of relationships between unlikely characters; and how the human spirit is buoyed when people come to appreciate the that the things that make us so different, are really the things that make us alike.