My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry
After her grandmother dies, eight-year-old Elsa is entrusted to deliver a batch of letters to people her grandmother had somehow wronged in life. While it sounds simple enough, the story that Backman constructs around this basic plot line is rich with details and quite entertaining.
There is a motley cast of characters that lives in the apartment building where Elsa resides with her mother, stepfather, and “Halfie,” her soon-to-be-born sibling. Elsa is an outcast at school, and a little overlooked by her mother. She has found the perfect friend and refuge in her grandmother. They spend hours in her upstairs apartment, nestled in the wardrobe, telling and re-telling endless stories about the magical land of Miamas to each other.
The grandmother’s death early in the book sets in motion the rest of the story, a convoluted tale that ultimately links everyone in the building to the grandmother’s past life. The grandmother’s will directs Elsa to embark on a long and complicated “treasure hunt.” It seems like the primary purpose is for Elsa to deliver her grandmother’s apologies (in a very particular order) for her past wrongs. In the process, however, Elsa learns all about her grandmother’s storied history, figures out why she is being stalked by someone and that everyone in the building has also been charged with looking out for her.
To really enjoy the book, you have to believe that an eight-year-old girl could be as precocious and wise as Elsa, and that her grandmother could really behave the way she does and get away with it. Their relationship is the heart of the story, which is ultimately about what death teaches us all about loss, forgiveness, and acceptance.
I had to push my way through the parts about the magical land of Miamas. It is referenced constantly throughout the book with so many details that you can’t believe are that important. But by the end you understand why they are, as they become an integral part of figuring out the treasure hunt.
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Review by Roberta Jordan, Outreach and Instruction Librarian