Book Club April 2016

This month’s book club pick was My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. I picked this book because I had heard a lot about it last year, as well as saw it on the end of the year Goodreads list. 

By: Fredrik Backman
Published Year: 2015
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 372

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Summary (Provided by Goodreads): From the author of the internationally bestselling 'A Man Called Ove', a novel about a young girl whose grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters, sending her on a journey that brings to life the world of her grandmother's fairy tales.

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.

                                                             What I thought

This book was not at all what I expected it to be but it was so good! Definitely one of the strongest written books I’ve read in a while.

Elsa is seven, almost eight, and has recently lost her Granny who is also her friend. Her Granny introduced her to the Land-of-Almost-Awake which is a fairy tale land made up of multiple kingdoms. Each kingdom has its own stories and characters which Elsa visits when she is about to drift off to sleep (hence the almost awake part). When her Granny dies, Elsa finds a letter from her to pass on to one of the residents of her house. This letter tells the reader that her Granny is sorry which then leads Elsa on a treasure hunt to deliver the other letters. Little does Elsa know at the time the treasure hunt begins, but the stories her Granny told her about the Land-of-Almost-Awake will be the greatest asset on this grand adventure.

Elsa is such a great character. I don’t know if she’s entirely realistic, but she is so much fun to have as a narrator. She is seven years old, and is super smart which makes her different from her peers. This causes a lot of other differences and is the reason her Granny tells her all these stories. Elsa is also a huge Harry Potter fan which I personally loved. Backman, overall, just has some fabulous character development. I loved each and every character in this book and would gladly read their own stories. They each had their own quirks and the surprises about each of their story lines were great. It reminded me that no everything is what it seems and that you can’t always judge a person on your first impression or on what someone tells you about them.

When I said that this book wasn’t what I expected, it’s because it had a sort of Love Actually element to it. There were some connections between characters in the books that were completely unexpected, even though they all lived in the same house. I found myself unable to put the book down because I wanted to know how the strings were going to end up being knotted together. Granny’s morals of her fairy tales were also so thought provoking. It’s not often that as an adult you read a story that has morals that can touch you, but I think since this story is told by an almost eight year old, it really works.

                                                   What Book Club Thought

The general consensus was that while the book was hard to get into at first, once he story got going it was really great. The hardest thing that we discussed was the fact that this book was translated.  Someone had brought up that they felt like the writing style at first was a bit off and once I explained that the book was originally written in Swedish, we decided that was probably the reason. We also discussed that some of the conversation or phrases also seemed a little odd, but could have bene contributed to the fact that this was not originally written in English. Everyone also loved Elsa and the fact that the story was told from her perspective. We again agreed that this might have been part of what made getting into the book a little difficult, but ended up being a part of what made this story enjoyable. Another interesting point that came up during our discussion was whether or not some of the twists and connections were obvious to the reader and not to Elsa because she was seven years old. I thought this was interesting because I hadn’t thought about it that way, but considering she’s the narrator, it makes sense that someone of her age wouldn’t make a lot of connections that adults would.

The final thing that we discussed was our favorite Elsa quotes. As our book club is comprised of not only book lovers (obviously), but Harry Potter fans, we had a lot of favorite quotes. We also discussed Elsa’s personality and her differences, as this is a trait that is brought up constantly through the book. I would definitely recommend this book for a book club as we had a lot to discuss without having to reach for much.

Poignant Questions

Which connection surprised you the most?

What did you think of Britt-Marie throughout the story?

What do you think of the parenting skills of the adults around Elsa?

Next Book Club Book

The Improbability of Love By: Hannah Mary Rothschild

Book Club Date: May 7th 2016