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The Bookworm Sez: "My Grandmother asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry"

Are there any three more powerful words? Can "I love you" – also used for countertops, couches, or coats – bestow such mercy? I don't think so.
The Bookworm Sez

"I forgive you."

Are there any three more powerful words? Can "I love you" – also used for countertops, couches, or coats – bestow such mercy? I don't think so.

"I forgive you." In release and relief, those words put things back on track - although, in the new book "My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry" by Fredrik Backman, the transgressions hardly need absolution. Every grandmother's house smells a little different. Some smell like cookies or old magazines, soup or stale perfume, but seven year-old Elsa's granny's flat – the whole building, in fact - smelled like coffee, cigarettes, a "very large animal of some sort," and Granny. For her entire life, Granny was the only friend Elsa had. Granny played games with Elsa, gave her rides in Renault (the car Granny said she won in a poker game), told Elsa stories and she taught Elsa how to get to the Land-of-Almost-Awake, the magic kingdom of Miamas, and a troubled knight named Wolfheart. Granny had a lot of superpowers, one of which was always being on Elsa's side. And that, perhaps, was why she never mentioned the word "cancer." She didn't want Elsa to know, or to mourn. That was probably why Granny never said goodbye before leaving Elsa with an assignment befitting a knight of Miamas.

The assignment was a treasure hunt with clues and messages for people in their building: Britt-Marie, who was a "nag-bag," and her husband, Kent; the boy who danced and his mother; Maud, who fixed everything with cookies; Al who drove a taxi. As Elsa made the deliveries, three more clues appeared until everything – including Granny's not-so-goodbye - began to make sense. And so did the knowledge that "it's possible to love your grandmother for years and years without really knowing anything about her." Did you ever read a novel that was so captivating that when it was over, you felt a little adrift? That's how I was when I finished "My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry."

If you can remember that time in your life when magic was real, grown-ups were mysteries and you were about to learn the truth about both, then you're halfway to understanding what makes Fredrik Backman's book so appealing. Although she's precocious, Elsa still relies on a magic and pretend, that's whisked away so quickly it's breathtaking. And yet, having to grow up fast is mercifully softened by the posthumous wishes of the kind of grandmother you'll wish you had. Bring tissues when you start "My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry," but you'll need your funny bone, too. It's that kind of book –if you miss it, you'll never forgive yourself.



"My Grandmother asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry" by Fredrik Backmanc.2015, Atria $25.00 / higher in Canada, 372 pages