This is another book I bought months ago and am just getting around to reading, thanks to the thesis work that previously took up all of my free time. I was going to get A Man Called Ove, but after reading the first two chapters I found that I couldn’t stomach it and put it back on the shelf. I picked up this one instead and was pleasantly surprised by both the synopsis and the first chapter, so it came home with me.
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.
When I was growing up, my grandmother was the best person in the world to me. I only got to see her once a year since we always lived so far away (maybe twice if Dad managed to get enough time off to visit for Christmas), but we built fairy houses, painted stove covers to look like mushrooms, and made pine-straw playhouses (where the walls are pinestraw, and you can rake the rooms into whatever shape you want). As I’ve gotten older, the pine-straw-playhouse is no longer mine. The younger cousins (who live there year-round and see her nearly daily) have turned it into theirs. The walls are discarded garden fencing instead of plain pine straw, and there are all sort of plastic accouterments inside it, so nobody really has to rely solely on their imagination.
But I’m getting off-topic. I picked up this book because I thought I would understand the subject matter: an ostracized kid who depends on her grandmother to be the voice of reason in the world. (Although by reading it as an adult, I can tell that the grandmother is absolutely bonkers, but to a kid whose family has been disrupted by divorce and a half-sibling on the way, I can understand why the kid idolizes the grandmother.)
I’m about 30% of the way into the book, and I’ve got no idea where it’s going to go next, which I think I like. Elsa has been tasked with giving letters to people in her grandmother’s life, but it’s unsure as to why she’s saying her grandmother is sorry to these people, because they were never nice to the grandmother when she was alive. I like the child-like wonder that is running through these pages, and I certainly can’t wait to see how it ends up.
Have you read any of Backman’s books? (Don’t you dare tell me to try Ove again because I will hit you.) Let me know in the comments!
And as always, keep reading.