When I was browsing at Barnes and Noble in December, the title “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” caught my eye. It was a long title and the cover was intriguing. I put it on my “books to read” list and ordered it from the library.
I just finished reading “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” and it was the best book I have read in a very long time. I have plenty of other things to blog about, but couldn’t wait to tell you about this book and urge you to read it.
The main character in “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” is an almost-eight-year-old girl named Elsa. Elsa is different, but other than being bullied at school, being different doesn’t bother her very much. Elsa is loved by her divorced parents but her granny is the source of her strength and courage.
Elsa’s granny is a physician who abandoned her own daughter to help children around the world in crisis situations. She loved and collected the children whose lives she saved. Elsa is her second chance at a family and she loves Elsa fiercely and is her strongest champion. Granny is even more different than Elsa and together they have adventures.
Granny sends Elsa on her biggest adventure when Granny dies. Elsa forms a family that she protects and defends at the same time they protect and defend her. She learns how to make friends and accept their differences by seeing them through her grandmother’s past.
Each chapter starts with part of a fairy-tale world that Granny invented and told to Elsa. As the novel continues, Elsa figures out that the people she is meeting through letters she delivers from her grandmother are really characters in the fairy-tale world. The fairy-tale world puts a story within the story, but it also gives Else a framework for making sense of some very hard lessons.
At its heart, “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” is a story about the relationship between Granny and Elsa. It turns out that Elsa is the most important thing in Granny’s world and Granny finds ways to show this to Elsa, even after she dies. “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.” If you have (or had) a grandmother like this, then you will love this book. There were passages that made me laugh out loud and want to share them with someone. But it is the relationships and their development that made it a three-tissue book at the end.
Author Fredrik Backman is a Swedish blogger and columnist. His first novel was the bestseller “A Man Called Ove” which has been translated into twenty-five languages. After reading “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” you can be sure that “A Man Called Ove” will be the next book I request from the library.