Remember when I read A Man Called Ove and told you all to read it? Remember how I told you that I lay in bed in the dark and cried silently because it affected me that much?
Remember how Fredrik Backman’s book My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologizes was released in English earlier this year?
Well I read it.
And when I finished reading it, I lay in the dark crying silently because I was so affected by it.
DAMN IT BACKMAN, STOP MAKING ME FEEL SO MANY THINGS.
Elsa is seven-almost-eight. She lives in an apartment with her mom and her step-dad. Her Granny lives in one of the apartments downstairs and she pretty well spends all of her time with her Granny. Granny tells Elsa fairy-tales about the Land-of-Almost-Awake: about the two princes who fight over the same girl but only end up fighting each other, about brave Wolfheart, a warrior who saved the whole country, about the snow-angel who had been left behind, trapped in the place where everything had been taken from it.
Elsa’s Granny isn’t one for rules. If she wants to break out of the hospital to take Elsa to the zoo in the middle of the night, then she’s bloody well going to. They have a secret language that they speak, Granny always stands up for Elsa, always has her back, and tells her that being different is good. Elsa doesn’t have any other friends: Granny is it. So when Granny dies, Elsa feels very alone.
Granny must have known this would happen because she sends Elsa on a kind of scavenger hunt. Her task, as Granny’s brave knight of the Land-of-Almost-Awake, is to take letters to the other tenants in the building, allowing Granny to apologize for all the horrible things she did in life (like hit Britt-Marie with a paintball gun, or pretend to throw a body off the balcony) and to get to know the people who live there.
I teared up for the first time on page 22. It happened again on page 38. But I also chuckled many many times. Elsa reads “quality literature” like superhero comic books – she sees the world in shades of Marvel. She also has a deep and abiding love for Harry Potter that is the most delightful thing I’ve read in a long time. Someone send a copy of this book to JK Rowling because I think she would get a kick out of it.
‘I…I bought these Harry Potter books yesterday. I haven’t had time to get very far yet, but, you know.’
‘What made you change your mind?’
‘I…I understand Harry Potter is important to you.’
‘Harry Potter is important for everyone!’
Preach, Elsa. Preach!
I loved going on this quest with Elsa. I loved the reminder that different is good, that healing takes time, and above all grandmothers are really the very best. If you loved A Man Called Ove, I’m fairly confident you will be delighted with My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologizes.
What do you have for us next Mr. Backman?