By: Fredrik Backman
Publication Date: 6/15/2015
My Rating: 4 Stars
In MY GRANDMOTHER ASKED ME TO TELL YOU SHE’S SORRY, as in his previous novel A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman paints a vivid portrait of the relationship between an older person nearing the end of his or her life, and a young child.
There is much to learn from people at the opposite ends of life. As we also discover in his latest novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer, with a boy and his grandfather.
All fairy tales take their life from the fact of being different. The power of storytelling!
“Only different people change the world,” Granny used to say. “No one normal has ever changed a crapping thing.”
Granny has always loved treasure hunts. She does not color within the lines; a total disregard for social niceties. Everyone thinks she is crazy. A trouble-maker. Rip-roaring life is an adventure. A superhero for her granddaughter, Elsa. They both are misunderstood.
“Because all seven-year-olds deserve superheroes. And anyone who doesn’t agree needs their head examined.”
Elsa is seven years old. Not quite eight yet. She is smarter than her years, an old soul. She is different. Her Granny is her best friend and teaches her about life through stories. Her only friend. She does not fit in at school. Intuitive, Elsa, loves her Granny. She is eccentric, her protector, and the one who tells her nightly bedtime fairy tales in their small apartment in the Land of Almost-Awake. (Miamas, Miploris, Mimovas, Wolfheart, the Chosen One, the sea-angel, etc.)
“Grow up and be different and don’t let anyone tell you not to be different; because all superheroes are different.”
With an array of misfits, a neighborhood apartment full of colorful eccentric quirky witty characters. We also meet Britt-Marie (we hear more from in) Britt-Marie Was Here.
“Because if a sufficient number of people are different, no one has to be normal.”
Elsa’s parents are divorced and she spends time at both households. Her mom has remarried and currently pregnant. Granny is keeping a secret from Elsa. She has cancer. However, when she dies she is angry and alone, full of emotions. She has left her a treasure hunt.
“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.”
Now, Elsa is left with the task of delivering her grandmother’s final letters of apology to all other residents of the building—The Monster, a hulking, quiet germaphobe; Alf, a tough-talking, curmudgeonly cabbie; Britt-Marie, the nervous wife of a businessman (Kent), and others—whom she feels she mistreated during her lifetime.
Is there a connection to her granny, her stories, neighbors, and her characters?
Grief, adventure, humor, emotions, and love all collide.Endearing and whimsical fairy tales provide a way to teach children (and adults) some fundamental truths about the world. I listened to the Audiobook and Joan Walker as always, delivers a captivating performance!
Hey, being a boomer, I even enjoy my seven-year-old grandson's company sometimes more than my uptight forty-year-old son. There is a bond, which often skips a generation. Of course, those are the joys of being a grandparent, when life is simpler, and not as structured. We are wise, of course :)
I enjoyed my Fredrik Backman binge read this weekend, making my way through all his endearing and charming stories. This was my last one.
Looking forward to Beartown, coming May 2017 (Atria Books) a poignant, charming novel about a forgotten town fractured by scandal, and the amateur hockey team that might just change everything.
Interview: Author Fredrik Backman talks to Drummond Moir about his book.
About the Author
Fredrik Backman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here, as well as a novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer. His books are being published around the world in more than thirty-five languages. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children. Read More
New York Times The Man Behind ‘A Man Called Ove,’ Sweden’s Latest Hit Novel
How I came to write my sixth novel, Abandoned Dreams
Son or daughter, sibling, spouse, parent, employee, employer - these are just some of the roles we have either been born into, had bestowed upon by us by others or have even sought out for ourselves.
But do these roles, these facades really represent the person we are - our hopes, dreams, fears, and insecurities. In accepting these roles are we masking our real personalities - intentionally or otherwise.
Sometimes roles are thrust upon us because of circumstances or our own mistaken actions.
When I was eighteen my best friend got his girlfriend pregnant. Today you would say my best friend and his girlfriend got pregnant, but back then it was different. Quickly, and not necessarily of his own choosing he took on the roles of husband and father.
Roles can change your life. Suddenly you're a different person - or are you?
What if you had the opportunity to start over, or more precisely take up where you left off?
This is a theme that has haunted me for a long time and one I took on in my sixth novel Abandoned Dreams. Here's the story:
At twenty-seven years-old, George Fairweather is “the voice of his generation”, a poet whose talent has garnered him accolades from the literary establishment and homage from the disenfranchised “hippie” youth of the late 1960’s.
George is the embodiment of the times with his long hair, rebellious attitude and regular use of mind-expanding psychedelic drugs.
Then the sudden and tragic death of Fallon, his friend, his muse and his lover shatters his world, his sanity and nearly ends his life.
Katherine is the one person who stands between George and destruction. A hanger-on, a groupie, a go-for, she’s a woman George never considered – for anything. Katherine idolizes George and makes it her personal mission to keep him alive, doing whatever it takes, twenty-four seven.
Because of Katherine’s sacrifice and devotion George slowly begins to mend his soul and rebuild a life. But guilt and gratitude make it a much different life then he’d previously led.
Thirty-seven years later, George Fairweather is a husband, father and grandfather and a successful copywriter at an advertising agency. Another death, his wife Katherine’s, is about to change his life again.
Can dreams be resurrected? Can a life abandoned be taken up again?
Will they let him? Is it worth it?
I wanted a challenge with this novel. I wanted to stretch myself as a writer. Because of the nature of plot I decided that the narrative would almost entirely be told by people other than the protagonist, George Fairweather. I wanted George to be an enigma. Different characters would see him differently depending on the role they cast him in - father, grandfather, lover, friend.
In the end, his true personality would emerge - or not. I wasn't sure.
I wanted to present a scene and then have different characters interact and reflect on it in their own voice. To achieve this I needed to develop deep character profiles apart from the novel.
The characters I created were complex and multi-dimensional as well as being different ages and genders and having different motivations.
Then I outlined the plot, dropped them in and hung on.
Abandoned Dreams apparently didn't wake anyone up. It has garnered less response than any of my previous books - and that's saying something.