A Journey of Character, Overdue Goodbyes, and Heroes With Flaws

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I’ve been maybe avoiding writing the review for this book. Not because it isn’t good. Perhaps more because it opens doors to truths I wasn’t sure I was ready to acknowledge, and that’s a sign of a very good book, but it’s also heavy on the emotional toll. Walking on this journey with Elsa made me look into some goodbyes of my own that maybe were long overdue. And now, flaws and all, is a book review.

my grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry by Fredrik Backman,                                   (English Translation by Henning Koch) Washington Square Press(370pp),                      ISBN 978-1-5011-1507-3,  Buy it on Amazon ($12.80)

“Because all seven-year-olds deserve superheroes. And whoever disagrees with that needs their head examined.” Elsa, on superheroes. 

Just reading the back of the book is enough to tell you that the story’s protagonist is a seven year old dealing with the death of her grandmother. The title makes you ask a lot of questions. And the book itself? If you have ever dealt with losing someone you love, it might shake a few thousand tears free; if you have been fortunate enough to not go through this toll on the emotions then there is still a character journey that awaits you.

Elsa is an incredibly intelligent and peculiar young girl going through the stress of divorced parents, new families, a new sibling on the way, and struggling with losing her grandmother (and rock in life), and the discovery that her heroes have flaws.

In a method similar to P.S. I Love You Backman gives you Elsa’s grandmother, who takes Elsa on a journey of goodbye through letters to people she wants to say she is sorry to. In a way these letters and Elsa’s blunt seven-year-old outlook not only help Elsa, but those throughout her quest to understand how to let go; of her grandmother, but also of events that have taken place in the past that continue to add weight to their present. This aspect of the journey does not become apparent until the second half of the book – and the way that Backman does this is subtle, and surprising. The foreshadowing does not clearly outline how the events take place, but like a puzzle, once the final piece is in place, you can clearly understand how the scenery is connected to make a whole picture.

Through the power of imagination and love, Elsa and her grandmother help bring a community together. As a stronger community, unified and hole, they are able to support Elsa in healing of her own. The final result? Maybe a broader understanding of grief and the healing process for the reader as well.

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