Melissa McShane's Reviews > My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman
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it was amazing
bookshelves: own, fiction, fairy-tales, family-story

I bought a bunch of Fredrik Backman's books, one at a time over several months, as I found them at the local thrift store, but I didn't read them right away. (This is typical. It's why my TBR pile is over 1100 books.) I can't remember what prompted me to pick this one up now, but I'm so glad I did.

I love the style Backman chose to tell this story--this conversational, at times almost breaking the fourth wall style. It fits so well with how this book deals with story, with fairy tales and the creation of myth and its function not just in childhood, but throughout life. Almost-eight-year-old Elsa is "different" in the way some children are, highly intelligent and deeply invested in story (both the Harry Potter novels and the magical tales her grandmother tells her). She and her grandmother have a tumultuous but loving relationship, and when her grandmother dies (not a spoiler, it's in the cover copy) she starts Elsa off on a journey of discovery that ends up extending that relationship in one way or another to everyone in the house where they live.

One of the things I loved was how interconnected it turned out everyone was. Elsa's initial impressions of her neighbors and her parents are all changed during the course of the story as she carries out her grandmother's instructions to deliver letters to them. It's a true quest, as Elsa not only has to deliver the letters, but find them as well--a quest and a treasure hunt. It reminded me strongly of Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game, which features a fundamentally similar story and is also about the interconnectedness of people.

I think my favorite aspect of the book was the "fairytale" world of Miamas. Backman's creation of this world is brilliant on so many levels, not just the worldbuilding but the reasoning behind it and the fact that it's grown and changed over the years. Elsa's relationship with it is that of an intelligent child capable of loving it for its surface qualities, but also appreciating, as she learns the truth, what Miamas means to other people. Backman's choice to include the Harry Potter books as Elsa's favorite series is also excellent, highlighting the difference between loving someone else's made-up world and sinking chin-deep into a world you've created yourself. And making it obviously a good difference. (view spoiler)

This could be a much, much longer review because each of the secondary characters deserve their own paragraph, and I don't have the energy for that right now. It's enough to say that there are plenty of revelations, and no one is who they appear to be except maybe Kent, who is a jerk. I even came to love Britt-Marie.

I don't know how perfect this book is. It certainly satisfied me. But I can see some readers dismissing it for the number of coincidences, or being appalled by (view spoiler). All I can say is that for me, this is not about coincidence because the entire thing is itself a fairy tale, something Backman is very clear about, and in fairy tales, coincidences happen. (view spoiler) I'm looking forward to reading my next book by Fredrik Backman.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
December 4, 2019 – Finished Reading
December 11, 2019 – Shelved

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