“But they do what they can. They construct words of forgiveness from the ruins of fighting words.”
I’ve read countless books over the years. Countless. There have been books I loved, books I hated, books I enjoyed, and books that were entirely forgettable. I am a reader, and every reader knows that once in a while, there is a book that finds you when you need it most. A book that gets in your blood, your heartbeat finding the cadence of the words as if they were intended just for you. A book that soars with the power of storytelling. Readers forever seek these gems out, each one fondly etched in a memory.
This book was that.
Swedish author Fredrik Backman is a talent who remained unknown to me until a little over a year ago when A Man Called Ove found its way to my shelves. It was absolutely brilliant, and I made a mental note to add more Backman to my TBR. I finally got around to My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry (2013, translated 2015) and can confirm that Backman is firmly rooted in this reader’s heart.
Elsa is 7, and a bit different. Her grandmother is 70 years older and quite crazy. Elsa’s granny has shattered gender norms and societal norms, as well as the patience of numerous doctors, nurses, and police officers. (The novel opens after Elsa’s granny threw “turds” at police officers following a B&E at the zoo. I’d explain why, but it’s complicated, as Elsa would say – and it would break your heart.)
Elsa has been raised on a steady diet of absurd and fantastical, with her granny giving her the stories that define her young life. When her grandmother dies, Elsa finds herself cast as a character in her grandmother’s most heartbreaking and courageous of fairytales. In the role of protector, she begins a treasure hunt to find and deliver the letters that contain her grandmother’s apologies. With each letter, more of the fairytale and Elsa’s role in it is unveiled.
It’s a beautiful book about life and death, mothers and daughters, love and forgiveness, and the power of stories.
Read this book.