June 19, 2015

"You were all her second chances."

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

Release Date: June 16, 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster | Atria
Pages: 384 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
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Summary (from Goodreads)
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. 

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry is told with the same comic accuracy and beating heart as Fredrik Backman's internationally bestselling debut novel, A Man Called Ove. It is a story about life and death and an ode to one of the most important human rights: the right to be different.

Thoughts on My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry
Y'ALL. This book wasn't on my radar until a publicist pitched it to me, and I decided to give it a shot. She mentioned that Backman's debut, A Man Called Ove, was her favorite book of 2014 and that made me curious. Now that I've read My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, I'm so glad I picked it up! It is, as I wrote immediately after finishing, a favorite, favorite, favorite. Let me tell you why...

I had a good feeling about this book as soon as I started reading it. And in this case, I think you need to see it for yourself to understand just how utterly charming and captivating it is from the very first page:
from Amazon's "Look Inside" feature
DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN? Okay, maybe you're not utterly in love yet (though you should be). I'll continue to sell you on this book. As you may have read, Elsa is seven years old and different. For all of Elsa's life, she's had her grandmother by her side and telling her stories about the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas. Because there, everybody is different. When Granny dies, it's those stories that prepare Elsa for her grandest - and most important - adventure: delivering a series of letters Granny has written apologizing to the people she's wronged. The letters lead her on a journey through Granny's past, reveal the truth behind all those fairy tales, and help her see the world and the people around her with new eyes.

Honestly, it freaks me out to think that I might have missed on on reading this book! It was absolutely FANTASTIC, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I laughed so hard I had to read passages out loud to my husband because he felt left out. I teared up so many times I had to put the book down until I could see clearly. I highlighted whole pages, and I could I read the whole thing over again right this minute. I fell madly in love with these characters, this story, and Backman's writing. There is so much heart and humor in these pages.

Backman is Swedish, so My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry is translated into English. It's so easy for things to be lost in translation, but I cannot speak highly enough of the writing in this book. There's wit:
"Granny then said that the real trick of life was that almost no one is entirely a shit and almost no one is entirely not a shit. The hard part of life is keeping as much on the not-a-shit side as one can."
And moments that made me tear up: 
"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. Even when you are wrong. Especially then, in fact. A grandmother is both a sword and a shield."
I fell in love with these characters. I adored Elsa's spirit and intelligence, Granny's wisdom and irreverence, and the quirkiness of the people who lived in their building. It's a book that reminded me that everyone has a story, that you never know what people carry inside and that there's something special about marching to the beat of your own drum. It was a picture of fierce love, family bonds, second chances and powerful stories.

Granny's Land of Almost-Awake is creative and crazy, but there's more to it than meets the eye. She told Elsa that "the best stories are never completely realistic and never entirely made-up," and it was a delight to see how true that was about the world she built for her granddaughter. I didn't immediately see how the fairy tales fit into the story, but I had so much fun unraveling the mystery. The writing and the characters stole the show for me, but the plot is imaginative and thrilling, too. I just can't tell you anything more about it because it's best you discover it all for yourself. I need y'all to read it RIGHT NOW so we can flail over it together!

When it was time to write this review, I dragged my feet. It's hard to talk about the books I love this much! I'm so thankful a pitch for this showed up in my inbox because I might not have taken a chance on it otherwise. And I would have been missing out on something truly special! I can't tell you the last time I laughed so hard and got so choked up - and in the same book too. It's eccentric, imaginative, insightful and touching. I'm buying a copy for my shelves, plus a few extras for some good old-fashioned book pushing. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry will be on all of my "Best of 2015" lists and will have a spot of my favorites shelf for life.

So Quotable
"He just needs time."
"I think he needs help."
"It's hard to help those who don't want to help themselves."
"Someone who wants to help himself is possibly not the one who most needs help from others," Elsa objects.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

4 comments:

  1. I instantly added this book to my TBR after I finished reading your review, Hannah! It sounds utterly delightful, and based on that first page alone, I believe I'd enjoy it just as much as you did. I'd love to meet Elsa and her grandmother, because it totally sounds like I could be friends with them ;)

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  2. What an absolutely wonderful review. I really like the idea of this book, it sounds like something I would love on the TBR list this one goes. The first page is gorgeous! x

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  3. Oh I'm buying this ASAP. You have to read A Man Called Ove! Its gorgeous and funny and heartbreaking. I have passed my copy to like 10 people, all of whom have loved it. Great review!

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  4. You know that I added this to my TBR immediately after you finished it on Goodreads! haha It sound so interesting. I like the whole fairy tale aspect and the truth associated with them, as she tracks down all of these people. It reminds me a little of the movie Big Fish! (Which may have been based on a book?)

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