I cried within the first chapter of My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry – big, ugly, fat tears that streamed down my face. The kind that leaves your eyes puffy and swollen. And then I laughed hysterically – big, belly-aching, unstoppable laughs that poured from my lips. My emotions flipped up and down while reading Fredrik Backman’s words like a shiny, copper coin. If you happened to be in the room with me while I was hunched over the book, you probably thought I was “losing it”. But this emotional reaction quickly became the norm. The penny tossed and turned as I dove deeper into a moving story about the strength of community, being true to yourself, and the unique relationship between a young girl and her grandmother.
Elsa is an almost eight-year-old with a precocious personality. Her teachers and classmates like to call her “different”. When they call her that, her Granny likes to demonstrate that being different is nothing to be concerned about, in the most extreme ways (ie. sneaking into a zoo overnight and throwing monkey feces at security officers). Who wouldn’t want a grandmother like that?! To most, Granny is wild and eccentric, but Elsa frequently refers to her grandmother as her personal superhero. Yet, the more Elsa learns about Granny’s past life as a doctor with global impact, the more she learns that Granny was a superhero to many. Before she passes away, Granny leaves Elsa with fanciful tales of adventure in the magical Land of Almost Awake. The two explore and learn together in this place, and it leaves Elsa with the best memories of her grandmother. When Granny dies, she has one final request for her favorite Knight. She asks her to deliver apology notes to her neighbors and community members.
As Elsa begins the greatest adventure of her young life, she begins to realize that the fairytales told by her grandmother were laced with realism. Each character from bedtime stories comes to life, and Elsa begins to learn more about the world around her. She takes her new responsibility seriously and dives deeply into relationships with her neighbors. Her interactions with others, even as a child, are powerful. We can all hope to see the world from young Elsa’s eyes. Her spunk and zest for life inspire, and frequently the book reminds us to shape our own identity “because if a number of sufficient people are different, no one has to be normal”.
Most may know Backman from A Man Called Ove, a #1 New York Times bestseller. I’m thankful that I dove into his works starting with My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. His sense of humor is incredibly unique and may take some adjusting. However, you’ll fall in love with the peculiar characters that are more realistic than you can initially imagine. Maybe you’ll remember the neighbors around you. Maybe you’ll recall your own adventures in childhood. Maybe you’ll flash back to wonderful memories with your own grandmother. No matter how you interpret the story, I highly recommend picking up My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry this summer.
★★★★★ 5/5 Stars