After close to three weeks (I think), it is safe to say that I am finally done with this book. One thing I realised about the book was that the title was almost as long as some of the sentences in the story! Well, what I meant to say was that the title was a mouthful to utter, which placed it on par with some of the sentences in the story that were a mouthful to read too.
The image above is of the same book, just with a different title. The one I read was called ‘My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologises.‘ Both titles are equally long, though.
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.
It was a truly different story compared to all the other books that I’ve read so far. Most books are written in a straightforward manner, in a sense that when something is about to happen, it will be written as such. But in this case, it is almost similar to the book ‘Room‘ by Emma Donoghue, where the story is seen through the eyes of a child. ‘Room’ was narrated from the point of view of a five-year old boy, while this one was told through the understanding of an almost-eight-year old girl, Elsa. Yes, she insists on being referred to as an “almost-eight-year-old” because she was soon to turn eight.
Elsa’s fairy-tale starts with Granny telling bedtime stories and going to the Land-of-Almost-Awake (much like all the dreamy places that Walt Disney takes us to back in those days), yet with no time for Elsa to absorb it, the little girl soon learns that her beloved granny had passed away from cancer. She hardly has time to digest the information when she suddenly finds herself dragged into a series of missions that her granny had left her in charge of (delivering letters of apology to the tenants of the flat that she stayed in with her mother, stepfather, and her granny before she died). From surly neighbours to a big black dog that stayed somewhere at the top of the flat with a hooded mysterious giant of a man, Elsa must gather all her wits and courage to see these missions through. At the end of the day, the results of her missions will assist her in the last and most dangerous mission of all.
What I liked about the book was the author, Fredrik Backman’s method of story-telling. He used fairy-tales, knights, princesses, dragons, angels, shadows, heroes, wurses (large black dogs), and magical kingdoms to describe Elsa’s brushes with reality and the different types of people she encounters in her life. It’s different from all the other books I read because these rhetorical situations jogs my imagination. You don’t read a children-based book and think like an adult. You pretend that you’re in her world, imagine what’s going on, and that you understand the trouble she’s going through to get the letters delivered (mostly by hand and in person). Pretense is a child’s game. Believe that you’re a superhero and they might just believe you. To adults, it may seem like you’re pulling a fast one over their eyes, but to a child, it’s a game. Since Elsa was fond of treasure hunts, her Granny decided to create one for her, albeit a very lifelike one since it requires her to meet people she never thought she would have to meet and pass them the letters.
At the beginning of the book, I felt that the pace was a bit too slow for my liking and I thought, oh no, why is the growth of the story taking forever to happen? But once I moved closer to the middle of the book, it dawned on me that slowly, the fairy-tale is starting to resemble reality, and that Elsa was being prepared by her grandmother through these stories to face reality when shit does hit the fan.
I won’t say so much now, in case some of you haven’t read the book and are going to read it. All I can say is, you have to be patient (like Elsa often tells herself) and wait until you reach the good parts.