“People in the real world always say,
when something terrible happens,
that the sadness and loss and aching pain of the heart will “lessen as time passes,”
but it isn’t true. Sorrow and loss are constant,
but if we all had to go through our whole lives
carrying them the whole time, we wouldn’t be able to stand it.
The sadness would paralyze us. So, in the end,
we just pack it into bags and find somewhere to leave it.”
“My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” is probably the warmest, kindest, sweetest book I’ve ever read. It fills my heart with so many emotions, mostly LOVE while reading. It is a story full of flaws and mistakes, that all grow-ups make in life and how they deal with it, and on the other hand, the children view on all of that.
“Only different people change the world,”
Granny used to say.
“No one normal has ever changed a crapping thing.”
Backman wrote the story of Elsa, an extraordinary, amazing, and sweet little girl growing up in an apartment building full of misfits and characters, a girl raised by her mum Ulrika and her wild, iconoclastic Granny. Elsa is wise beyond her years. She is fearless, precocious, saucy, and irresistibly lovable. Her Granny has created for and with her a magical world, a place of miraculous kingdoms and fairy tales to which they “travel” together in their minds whenever they need to escape and to ease the hurts caused by the world around them. When Elsa’s Granny dies, she leaves behind a series of letters which Elsa must find and deliver one by one. More than simple amends, Granny has constructed a real-life scavenger hunt to help Elsa to explore her world, to learn to understand the people who surround her and to apologize for her Granny’s many slights and foibles.
“Because not all monsters were monsters in the beginning.
Some are monsters born of sorrow.”
Elsa has learned to navigate the world through her mother’s rigidity and order and her granny’s utter chaos and creativity. Though the two central, formative figures in her life seem diametrically opposed to one another, Elsa somehow, magically, mirrors them both.
“My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” is an adult fairy tale. It is full of magic and wonder. In an honest, visceral exploration of love, friendship, grief, and human fallibility, Backman has created something, pure, and magnificent. And as the sage Elsa says, “Anyone who doesn’t agree needs their head examined.”
“Don’t fight with monsters, for you can become one.
If you look into the abyss for long enough, the abyss looks into you.”
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 fairy tales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.