Meet my new favorite author, Fredrik Backman. I’ve read two of his books, the unwieldily titled “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry,” and “A Man Called Ove.” Reading his books is like being told a story: cuddled up on a couch with a fuzzy blanket, your dog warming your feet, fire crackling in the background and a glass of merlot in your hand. The storyteller sits opposite you in an old wooden rocking chair, hand crocheted afghan on his lap, as he lulls you in a gentle half-consciousness with his tales. Even more astounding is that he’s speaking to you in Swedish and yet somehow his story is beautifully translated into gorgeous English words, sentences and paragraphs, as if that’s how they originated.
My Grandmother Asked Me is told by seven year old Elsa. She’s an uncommonly bright child and, as many such children are, slightly odd as a result. Her grandmother, more than just slightly odd, is her very best friend in the world. The two of them create fantasy worlds, a secret language, and go on crazy adventures together. And then one day, Granny gets sick.
What follows is a whirlwind in Elsa’s young life, full of tracking down the people Granny has somehow wronged for Elsa to apologize on her behalf. Letters from Granny mysteriously arrive with instructions to Elsa on their delivery. Elsa’s journey takes her to the doors of each resident in their apartment house, where she learns something new about each of them and about Granny. The apartment house is an island of misfit toys – Elsa is faced with sweet old couples, coffee addicts, scary animals, grumpy old men, and the brokenhearted (not all mutually exclusive categories).
To say that I loved this book would be a ridiculous understatement. It’s a beautiful story about a building full of flawed and very real characters, with a precocious little genius at its center. Shortly after finishing it, I chose the book for our bi-monthly book club. I think everyone else enjoyed it as well, with a couple of members who had difficulty getting through the lengthy descriptions of Elsa and Granny’s fantasy world, the Land-of-Almost-Awake. Plug through it if it gives you trouble. it’s worth it, I promise.
And, bonus, it fulfilled a box on my Reading Challenge: a book that has been translated into English.
Every seven-year-old deserves a super-hero. That’s just how it is. Anyone who doesn’t agree needs their head examined.
There’s something special about a grandmother’s house. You never forget how it smells.
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 are wrong. Especially then, in fact.
To buy the book from Amazon, click here (Please note that I’m venturing into the world of affiliate links. If you buy the book using the link above, I’ll receive a few pennies. Yay me!)
To read all about Fredrik Backman (in Swedish, mind you), click here.