My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry


My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry
by Fredrik Backman
2013 / 385 pages
read by Joan Walker – 11h 02m
rating:  6  / contemp fiction – fantasy (I think)

“There is no such thing as coincidence in fairy tales.”

Back in August of this year I read and very much enjoyed Bachman’s A Man Called Ova about a stubborn  and  eccentric Swedish man so  the premise of this book was intriguing.  Too bad – mostly.  Because I’m not a fan of fantasy and this book is chock full of  superheroes and witches and warriors and dragons and trolls etc. and so on.

The “Grandmother”  of the title belongs to Elsa, a precocious, imaginative, annoying and insecure 7-year old girl who lives with her mother and step-father in one upscale flat while her mother’s mother (the “Grandmother”)  lives next door.  And although Grandma has always been eccentric,  she appears to be edging up on bonkers.  Oh well,  Elsa is a bit eccentric herself even at the age of 7.

Granny and Elsa are very, very close.  Elsa might get in trouble at school and in the neighborhood or with her parents,  but never, it seems, with Granny.  Granny is more likely to get in trouble with the same people and/or Elsa as well. But all is well because  Granny tells Elsa stories which take place in  the “Land of Almost-Awake.”   In this land there where are  six kingdoms called  Miamas, Mirevas, Miploris, Mimovas, Miaudacas, and Mibatalos which are populated by the “sorrow keepers” and the “story tellers” and the “warriors” and “dreamers,”  etc.  This fairy tale land is only attainable by Granny and Elsa – or so Elsa thinks.

Elsa’s father is less than no help although he can be interesting.   There’s a woman named Britt-Marie, the head of the budding tenant’s association, and her husband,  a barking dog named Wurse,  and an older bum-like and possibly bonkers man called Wolf-Heart.  These characters are really quite  well done and interesting.  Some help the story with a sort of grounding,  others lift it into fantasy – but that’s a bit of a theme along with the importance of stories.

And then Grandma dies leaving Elsa totally grief-stricken but with a mission to deliver certain letters to special friends –  and she discovers that the fairy tales are known by many,  but the reasons are not at all mundane and that’s what’s important.

As the story progresses the links between the stories of the Land of Almost-Awake and reality become clearer.  This is nice,  I suppose – it would have had a more enlightening effect had I been more invested in the story but …

Although it has some interesting characters and I got caught up in parts of it after awhile,  the story as a whole just doesn’t ever really gel – not for me.  Maybe for those who enjoy fantasy more than I do.

I see a connection to other books –  A Man Called Ove for one in that both books have to do with communities and relationships, new and very old,  between neighbors.  Another book is The Elegance of the Hedgehog in that one of the themes is that it’s okay to be different.  (I may be the only person on the planet to see a connection between those books.)

“Only different people change the world,” Granny used to say. “No one normal has ever changed a crapping thing.”

This might deserve a second reading at some point –  like if it’s chosen for a discussion in some reading group.

There are very few non-commercial reviews of the book online but …