Review – My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman

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

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary

Length: 372 Pages

Release date: June 16, 2015

Synopsis: 

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.

rating

five

“There’s nothing wrong with being different. Granny said that only different people change the world.”

This was my third novel by Backman, and he is yet to disappoint me. Elsa, the precocious 7-year-old protagonist of My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, is endlessly endearing, and her love for her eccentric grandmother is guaranteed to make the reader love her, too. Elsa loves Harry Potter, superheroes, but most of all, she loves her grandmother’s fairy tales, which take place in a magical land called Miamas. Being seven, Elsa doesn’t have the strongest grasp of the divide between reality and fiction, and the magic of Miamas frequently bleeds into her understanding of the real world. By the end of the novel, you just may end up feeling like you grew up hearing granny’s stories as well.

At the heart of this story is a desire for understanding and human connection. Elsa is given a series of letters to deliver to people after her grandmother’s death. These people may not always seem sympathetic at first glance, but they all have something important to teach Elsa. “Because not all monsters were monsters in the beginning. Some are monsters born of sorrow.” Elsa’s grandmother takes the time at the end of her life to apologize to all those closest to her, even those she was never able to connect with in life. Fans of A Man Called Ove already know that Backman has a special talent for getting readers to sympathize with the grumpiest curmudgeon; the grumps in this book were no exception.

Despite the novel frequently delving into rather heavy topics, such as domestic violence, death, and war, the overall impression is whimsical and hopeful. Backman’s expert blend of humor and sentiment make this the ultimate feel-good read.

“Every seven-year-old deserves a superhero. That’s just how it is. Anyone who doesn’t agree need their head examined.”

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Purchase links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

Have you read any of Backman’s work? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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Review – Britt-Marie Was Here, by Fredrik Backman


Britt-Marie Was Here
by Fredrik Backman

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary

Length: 324 Pages

Release date: May 3, 2016

Synopsis: 

Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. A disorganized cutlery drawer ranks high on her list of unforgivable sins. She is not one to judge others—no matter how ill-mannered, unkempt, or morally suspect they might be. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention. But hidden inside the socially awkward, fussy busybody is a woman who has more imagination, bigger dreams, and a warmer heart that anyone around her realizes.

When Britt-Marie walks out on her cheating husband and has to fend for herself in the miserable backwater town of Borg—of which the kindest thing one can say is that it has a road going through it—she finds work as the caretaker of a soon-to-be demolished recreation center. The fastidious Britt-Marie soon finds herself being drawn into the daily doings of her fellow citizens, an odd assortment of miscreants, drunkards, layabouts. Most alarming of all, she’s given the impossible task of leading the supremely untalented children’s soccer team to victory. In this small town of misfits, can Britt-Marie find a place where she truly belongs?

rating

four

“One morning you wake up with more life behind you than in front of you, not being able to understand how it’s happened.”

Britt-Marie Was Here was my second book my Fredrik Backman, the first being the wildly successful A Man Called Ove. I was a bit surprised by the striking similarities in themes between the two books, even considering that they both come from the same author. Ove and Britt-Marie are both older protagonists struggling to cope with a fundamental sense of loneliness for the first time in their adult lives. They are both uptight curmudgeons who find love and meaning in places they didn’t expect, finding themselves fundamentally changed in the process.

That being said, Britt-Marie Was Here is very much its own story. Britt-Marie is not dealing with the death of a spouse, but with the dawning realization that she is not being treated the way she deserves. After years of marriage, after devoting the bulk of one’s adult life to a partner, what a terrifying prospect: it’s all been all wrong. Fundamentally, irreparably, wrong. Britt-Marie packs a suitcase, leaves the home she’s shared with her husband, and sets out to find a job after spending her life as a homemaker. This brings her to Borg.

Britt-Marie obtains a position as a caretaker of the rec center, where she meets a colorful cast of characters who have more to teach her than she could possibly guess. The most important lesson she must learn is this: it is never too late. It’s never too late to turn around a football match, to make new friends, to visit the city you’ve always wanted to see… to stand up for yourself and realize that a spouse who doesn’t value you doesn’t deserve you. Britt-Marie’s story is told with the charming blend of humor and poignancy which made Backman’s A Man Called Ove such a success.

Britt-Marie Was Here is perfect for fans of…

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A human being, any human being at all, has so perishingly few chances to stay right there, to let go of time and fall into the moment. And to love someone without measure, explode with passion… A few times when we are children, maybe, for those of us who are allowed to be… But after that? How many breaths are we allowed to take beyond the confines of ourselves? How many pure emotions make us cheer out loud without a sense of shame? How many chances do we get to be blessed by amnesia? All passion is childish, it’s banal and naive, it’s nothing we learn, it’s instinctive, and so it overwhelms us… Overturns us… It bears us away in a flood… All other emotions belong to the earth, but passion inhabits the universe. That is the reason why passion is worth something. Not for what it gives us, but for what it demands that we risk – our dignity, the puzzlement of others in their condescending shaking heads…

Purchase links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

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A Man Called Ove – Review

tumblr_p96pb7AeWG1xt2mbpo1_540“She just smiled, said that she loved books more than anything, and started telling him excitedly what each of the ones in her lap was about. And Ove realized that he wanted to hear her talking about the things she love for the rest of his life.”

A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman

five

A Man Called Ove opens with Ove, our protagonist and stereotypical curmudgeon, and one unfortunate electronics salesperson, as Ove attempts to purchase an “O-Pad,” with growing animosity as his woeful lack of electronic knowledge becomes apparent. The opening scene gives the reader a first glimpse at the man  we will slowly grow to understand in the following chapters. Against all odds, the grouch in this scene is one half of a heart-wrenching love story. His wife, Sonja, has recently passed away, and Ove is struggling to get along alone in a world he doesn’t really understand.

Without Sonja, Ove has checked out of the world, and he has no interest in making any new friends, thank you very much. But when new neighbors move into the neighborhood and inject themselves into his life with overwhelming openness and amiability, will Ove allow himself to love and be loved?


I can’t remember the last time a book made me laugh and cry quite as much as this one. Ove and his neighbors are almost cartoonish in their interactions and Ove’s farcical outbursts, but his grief over the loss of his wife always remains poignant and present. Flashbacks throughout the book bring his marriage into sharp focus, keeping the reader ever conscious of what he has lost. Sonja, for a character existing only in flashbacks, feels remarkably fleshed out, and the sunshine inherent in her personality is a counter-balance for the stormcloud that is Ove. It’s hard not to picture her smiling and shaking her head at each of his tantrums, even in the scenes after her death.

Her friends couldn’t see why she woke up every morning and voluntarily decided to share the whole day with him. He couldn’t either. He built her a bookshelf and she filled it with books by people who wrote page after page about their feelings. Ove understood things he could see and touch. Wood and concrete. Glass and steel. Tools. Things one could figure out. He understood right angles and clear instruction manuals. Assembly models and drawings. Things one could draw on paper.

He was a man of black and white.

And she was color. All the color he had.

A Man Called Ove is about love and grief, and moving on without ever forgetting. Ove’s love for Sonja is palpable to the end, and every good thing he does seems to be in an effort to be the kind of person who deserves her love in return. Because Lord knows they’ll be hell to pay if Ove arrives in the afterlife and he hasn’t taken care of that mangy stray cat that, of course, Sonja would have loved.

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