Monday, October 2, 2017

Review: My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry – Fredrik Backman


My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry – Fredrik Backman


Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy, standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa's best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother's stories, in the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal. 
When Elsa's grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa's greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother's letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones, but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.



Review: I was unsure of this book when I bought it. The synopsis sounds quirky, which I like, but I wasn’t sure if it was quirky-clever (good) or quirky-fluffy (gag).

Now that I’ve read the book, I can happily inform you that it’s quirky-brilliant. I adored this novel. As soon as I finished it, I immediately added all the author’s other books to my To-Be-Read list. This is one of those novels that made me sit in silence after I finished it and think, Why can’t I write like that? Damn.

The story follows Elsa, a genius seven-year-old whose grandmother dies and leaves her a treasure hunt to follow. As Elsa digs into her grandmother’s letters and stories, she starts uncovering the not-so-pleasant details of her grandmother’s life. The treasure hunt also leads her to the apartments of her grandmother’s neighbors. Her grandmother has wronged all of the neighbors in some way. To reach the end of the treasure hunt, Elsa must figure out what her grandmother did wrong and deliver her grandmother’s apology letters.


“Death’s greatest power is not that it can make people die, but that it can make people want to stop living.” - My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry



The best part of this book is how the characters are developed. It’s so good, guys! In the beginning of the book, Elsa lives in a fairytale world. Everything is over-the-top. Her grandmother is a manic hero who causes mayhem but somehow always manages to save the day. Elsa’s apartment building is inhabited by monsters and other fantasy creatures. Some of the creatures are scary, some are funny, and others are just confusing.

As the plot progresses, the characters become more complex. Elsa uncovers their strengths, weaknesses, and histories. By the end of the book, the characters—even the minor side characters—are all very human. Granny’s death forces Elsa to grow up and see people as complex instead of as “good” or “evil.” Everybody has a little bit of both in them. Fairytales are great, but people aren’t fairytale characters.


“Elsa decides that even if people she likes have been shits on earlier occasions, she has to learn to carry on liking them. You’d quickly run out of people if you had to disqualify all those who at some point have been shits.” - My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry



The book also shows how stories can help kids get through grief. Granny is gone, but Elsa still has the stories that Granny invented. Elsa uses the stories to ease herself into a post-Granny world.

Despite the book’s heavy themes, Fredrik Backman’s writing style is hilarious. I laughed so many times. The book kept me up late at night because I was having too much fun to put it down and go to sleep. I love Elsa so much. She’s very smart, but she has no filter. Everything she thinks comes out of her mouth. Her observations about the world are heartbreaking and funny at the same time.


“‘Only different people change the world,’ Granny used to say. ‘No one normal has ever changed a crapping thing.’” - My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry

 
“Never mess with someone who has more spare time than you do” - My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry



I’m pretty sure this will be one of my favorite books I read this year, but I have to come up with something to criticize. I’m being too nice right now.

Okay, here’s something: I think some of the transitions between fairytales and reality are too abrupt, and there are so many fairytales that I had a hard time keeping them straight. That didn’t impact my enjoyment of the book, though. I love the characters, the story, the dialogue, everything.

If you’re hesitant about this book because of the somewhat-fluffy synopsis, don’t be. Trust the author. He knows how to tell a good story, and he’ll make you smile while he does it. I can’t wait to read his other books. For me, this one completely lived up to the hype. Go read it.


“One day at a time. One dream at a time. And one could say it’s right and one could say it’s wrong. And probably both would be right. Because life is both complicated and simple. Which is why there are cookies.” - My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry








18 comments:

  1. Your review has definitely bumped this book up the my next read! I've had it for ages, I just haven't been motivated enough to start it.

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  2. I didn't even know about this one. I love his A Man Called Ove as so many of us do. I bet this one will be fantastic!
    Rebecca @ The Portsmouth Review

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    1. I still need to read A Man Called Ove. I’ve heard a lot of great things about it.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  3. I have this authors other books on my TBR but will add this one now too!! I love a book that can make me laugh and tackle heavy stuff at the same time. Great review!

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    1. YES! I loved the blend of heavy stuff and funny stuff.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  4. This does sound like an interesting book and I like the idea of her going on a journey with those letters--very creative.

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    1. YES! It’s definitely one of the most creative books I’ve read this year.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  5. With my extreme aversion to spoilers, I just read the first two paragraphs of this review to determine if you liked it. I just checked it out from the library, and now I'm more likely to read it! I haven't tried this author yet.

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  6. I definitely need to check this one out. It sounds fun/sweet and I have been eying it mostly because I love its title. Hearing your review and rereading the synopsis I think I may bump it up on my TBR list.

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    1. The title is great, isn’t it? If you read it, I hope you like it!

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  7. You have convinced me! I really enjoyed A Man Called Ove and have been tempted to read more but now I know I have to...and do it soon.

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  8. Great review! I totally agree with everything you said here! I met Fredrik Backman at Book Expo 2016 and he is so unlike his characters. So very un-curmudgeonly! I have a Newfoundland and I expressed that I was sure The Wurse was a Newfoundland. He denied it stating that, by definition, The Wurse could not be a dog because it is a WURSE. In the end, he did admit there were some similarities. If you liked this book, I highly recommend Britt Marie Was-Here!

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    1. That’s so cool that you got to meet him. I suspect that Newfoundland dogs and Wurses look very similar. Hopefully I’ll get to read Britt Marie Was Here soon.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  9. I received this one for review and when I got it, all I was sure of was that it was definitely going to be a character driven novel. But as you go on reading I really discovered that this one was unique, like you, and that it is terribly adorable and meaningful too. I'm glad you could love it as well. I can't wait to read more by him.

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  10. Whew! Your review helped me make a big decision. I've been avoiding this read for a while. I've had the book on my Kindle since April 2016, and I bought it because I enjoyed A Man Called Ove. Also because I am a fan of grandmother/granddaughter relationships and quirky characters.

    The long title felt intimidating...which is silly.

    So now...I am moving it on up! Thanks!

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