After gorging yourself on turkey and fixings, and spending more hours than you care to admit perusing the annual Black Friday ads, opportunity will be ripe for a little relaxation. While I’m sure there are no shortage of ways in which to fill that “food coma me time,” unwinding with a good book is always an excellent option.
As luck would have it, The Under Cover Book Club is back again, just in time to ensure that a quality reading selection is on hand when the need arises.
The book pick for December comes to us from Swedish author, Fredrik Backman, in the form of his new novel, “My Grandmother Wants Me to Tell You She’s Sorry.”
Previously winning acclaim for his debut novel, “A Man Called Ove,” Backman is a man who came to writing via a circuitous route. Initially interested in studying journalism, he found that he needed a number of prerequisite credits in order to be able to apply for the program. He decided to earn them studying religion, and after a detour lasting over three years, found that it was now time to find a job.
He became a truck driver to pay the bills, but in 2006, when the newspaper Xtra launched, he decided to write a test column. It was well received, and Backman became a regular contributor, which morphed into writing for several magazines and blogs.
When discussing his professional evolution, Backman has said, “I write things. Before I did that I had a real job, but then I happened to come across some information saying there were people out there willing to pay people just to write things about other people, and I thought ‘surely this must be better than working.’ And it was, it really was. Not to mention the fact that I can sit down for a living now, which has been great for my major interest in cheese-eating.”
His good fortune in finding a way to earn a dollar that allows him to live the gouda life has been passed on to us in the form of this latest book, which by all accounts is the sweet story of a “different” little girl, and her special grandmother, who creates a world for her in which being different is celebrated.
Elsa, 7, is wise beyond her years and has a hard time making friends. Her grandmother is 77, and as a former surgeon, didn’t spend enough time with her own daughter, Elsa’s mother. To remedy her past mistakes, Granny becomes Elsa’s confidant, and in fact, her only true friend.
During their time together, she weaves stories for Elsa about a fantasy world, called the Land of Almost-Awake, where “everyone is different, and no one needs to be normal.” Elsa eats the stories up, and commits the tales to memory.
Granny, who has been battling cancer, passes away, leaving behind a collection of letters, with instructions for Elsa on whom she is to deliver them to. Written under the guise of apologizing to those she had wronged, the letters take Elsa on a journey that both helps her deal with her grief, and offers her a way to forge relationships with the other residents of their building.
As Elsa sets about to fulfill her grandmother’s wishes, she begins to recognize, in her neighbors, the characters that populated Granny’s stories, and realizes that these fairy tales were actually rooted in reality. She discovers that even in the real world, there is plenty of magic, as well as tragedy and triumph to go around.
Perhaps my own special relationship with my grandmother has predisposed me to be drawn to this story, but I for one, think it sounds like a perfect companion to share my holiday weekend with, as I pass the hours in my own make believe kingdom, the Land of Exhausted From Holiday Preparations.
Edie Crabtree is an avid reader and the mother of three active boys. She can be reached at [email protected]