Wednesday, June 15, 2016

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

From the author of the internationally bestselling 'A Man Called Ove', a novel about a young girl whose grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters, sending her on a journey that brings to life the world of her grandmother's fairy tales. 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.

  I am a big fan of the lovable curmudgeon character—the crankier the better.  So, it was no surprise to me that I loved the grandmother in My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman.  Grandma is a best friend to her seven-year-old granddaughter, Elsa.  In fact, she is Elsa’s only friend.  An odd little girl obsessed with her Harry Potter scarf, Elsa is frequently bullied at school and the stories her grandma tells her are the perfect distraction.
         Elsa and her grandmother have their own language and their own imaginary land—Miamas.  Grandma tells Elsa about the fantastic creatures and magical happenings in Miamas, and Elsa quite enjoys the special bond she has with her grandma.  While Grandma is always getting in trouble in real life (she breaks into a zoo), in Miamas, Grandma is a master storyteller.
         After Grandma dies early in the book, she leaves behind a series of letters, apologizing to those she has wronged.  It is a sort of apologetic treasure hunt, if you will.  Elsa follows this trail to find the people who were important to her Grandmother and finds the connections between Miamas and the real word are not as tenuous as they seem.
         This book is a mess.  First, Elsa does not behave at all like a seven year old.  She is allowed to go out alone for extended periods of time.  She is bullied much in the way an older child would be harassed.  Her thoughts are quit advanced.  This is not merely something I observed as a reader—it was something that rankled me. 
         In addition, the stories about Miamas were quite nonsensical.  It felt as though I was reading about someone’s dream.  You know how things make perfect sense in a dream, but when you try to tell someone about the series of events, it makes little sense?  That is Miamas.  (Prime example?  A dog is called a “wurse” throughout the entire story and IS NEVER CALLED A DOG.)  Through much convoluted storytelling, I finally realized that every character in Miamas is a person who lives in the building where Elsa lives. 
         About ¾ of the way through the book, it turned into sort of an action story with a mystery of sorts and a stabbing.  I found it jarring.  This was not that type of book at all, and it made me want to stop reading entirely.
         It took me forever to read this confusing mess, and I almost regret the time I gave to it.  Word has it that AMan Called Ove is better than this one, and I sincerely hope it is since that one is taking up space on my shelf.
         Skip it.  Read something better.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina

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The old grey donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, "Why?" and sometimes he thought, "Wherefore?" and sometimes he thought, "Inasmuch as which?" and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about.

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