Book Preview: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry

I don’t know if I’ve ever written a book review before I’ve finished the book, and I certainly don’t intend to start now. But I feel strongly enough about this particular book that it deserves some sort of a mention, right now, even though I’m smack dab in the middle of it.

Fredrik Backman owns the fingers behind A Man Called Ove. That was his first novel.  I loved it. Next, I believe, came My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. This being the very book that I am in the middle of, and am stopping in the middle of to write about, in one of my many woeful efforts at making certain books last.

Sometimes I only allow myself a few pages each day. Sometimes I read a bunch of other stuff at the same time so my mathematical brain insists on giving everyone equal screentime, thereby prolonging the joy. Sometimes I just blow right through, which is quite enjoyable. But sometimes I can’t hold myself back, and I don’t really try, but I also want to make things last, so I spend a little extra time thinking in between page-turning sessions.

This time I’ll just write a little.

Fredrik Backman is incredible. Ove was a character, and Backman had a style I’d never experienced in portraying that character. I thought it was part of Ove. But it turns out it’s part of Backman. He somehow writes with this minimalist language, slashes through sentences, chops out each word, and does it with the brushstrokes of an artist. I don’t think there is another Backman out there. I doubt that he learned to write like this from some great master, an exercise in imitation. I doubt that he learned anything at all. But he commands words to do his bidding and he does it so well.

And then there is this story. It is gorgeous. This man finds his way into the deepest recesses of his world, harnesses all the beauty and all the pain and all the muddled angst and innocence and light and joy, and drags them all up to the surface to package into print, to bring, with flawless patience and compassion, into the world as a gift to every reader. And he’s hilarious.

Some reviewer on the back cover compares Backman to Roald Dahl and Niel Gaiman. I was a little shocked at that. And then I started the book. It seems to me that Fredrik Backman brings Dahl and Gaiman together into one spine, eeks out all their best qualities, ejecting the rifraff, then improves upon the whole deal.

So far, long before reaching the midpoint of the tale, I have wept in grief, laughed mercilessly–morphing the tears into a different sort–and come full circle again to tears, all in the space of one scene. Several times over. I’ve been held in awe of his insight into the hearts of man. And woman. And child. I’ve watched as the writing axioms are obliterated in favor of an incredible story, ingeniously told. His world is so wide, his vision so broad, his heart so open. This is a good book.

But I digress. Maybe I’m just caught up.

We’ll see what it looks like from the other side of the cover.

Back to business,

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