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This book was so adorable I couldn’t even stand it.
My mom picked it up after my dad and I both read and adored A Man Called Ove so she thought we’d enjoy the second book by Fredrik Backman.
Did we ever!
It’s about a girl named Elsa who has a very special relationship with her grandmother. The book starts a few weeks before Elsa turns eight, and just before her grandmother dies. We get to meet Granny shortly before she dies, but mostly we learn of her through flashbacks and other people’s stories of her. Granny worked as a doctor and traveled all over the world saving people’s lives until Elsa was born, at which point Granny gave it all up to become a full-time grandmother.
Elsa was raised on Granny’s fairy tales. They’re full of snow angels and sea monsters and witches and princesses and great warriors. Granny tells Elsa these stories as a way for her to cope with the fact that she’s different from all the other kids at school who bully her.
But after Granny’s death, Elsa discovers a letter her Granny wanted her to deliver to one of their neighbors – someone Elsa has never met because he’s kind of a recluse and huge and very scary to an almost-eight-year-old girl. But Elsa summons the courage of the warriors Granny always told her about to deliver the message, only to discover her neighbor is not that scary after all, just a big lug with a case of PTSD and hypochondria.
But it doesn’t end there. It turns out Granny hid letters to all their neighbors in various places and it’s Elsa’s mission to find and deliver them all. Each letter apologizes to the recipient for various transgressions Granny committed against them. As she delivers these letters, Elsa gets to know her neighbors, how her grandmother impacted their lives, and she learns that the fictional characters in Granny’s fairy tales were really the neighbors with which she’s been growing up.
This book tugged on so many heartstrings. Not only because Elsa is adorable, but because she’s a typical little kid who’s not afraid to speak her mind. She loves comics and Harry Potter and how can you not love a girl like that? 😉 I thought Backman did a remarkable job of writing from a kid’s perspective, which is something I always appreciate.
For a book written by a dude, I was surprised at how feminist it was. Granny grew up at a time when no one expected women to be doctors, but she did it anyway. She was always fiercely true to herself and she encouraged Elsa to be the same way. She taught Elsa that being different could be a strength, rather than a weakness, and supported Elsa in everything from school projects to her right to dress up as Spider-Man, no matter what her gender.
I also appreciated how multi-dimensional each and every character is. I think it helped that Elsa thought she knew all her neighbors, only to find out there’s so much more to each of them than she had ever realized. There are no flat characters here (not even Granny) and it’s one of my favorite things about Backman’s writing.
I rarely suffer from bookcomas. I’ve been known to finish one book and go straight for another, but with this one, I needed a minute. It was so good and so heartwarming that I just wanted to revel in it for as long as I could.
Trigger warning: There’s a dog that gets killed in the process of saving Elsa and a boy who lives in their building. It’s so sad, and I had a hard time with it, so if it’s not the kind of thing you ever want to read, then I suggest you pass on this book.
What did you guys read this week? Anything that surprised you with all the feels?