Book Review by Kirsten Reitan
Last year everyone I knew was raving about this relatively new author and his book, A Man Called Ove. I never read it, but when I was wandering the book store and saw the ‘Buy 2, get 1 Free’ table and another book by the same author was one of the choices, I picked it up. I’m really glad I did, as it is one of the best books I have read all year.
Elsa is an almost-eight year old whose best and only friend is her eccentric grandmother, who is almost seventy-eight. Neither are very good at acting their age. From the outset, we understand that Elsa is a gifted child. She is considered very grown up for her age, which Elsa interprets as meaning “massively annoying for her age.” Granny’s response is that “all the best people are different. Afterall, if all superpowers were normal, everyone would have them.” Thus the author has given us a way to recognize the important people in Elsa’s life as the story unwinds and Elsa labels the various super powers people in her life possess.
Relatively early in the plot, Granny dies and leaves Elsa a treasure hunt. It contains letters written to people to whom Granny needs to apologize. Letter by letter, Grandmother’s life is revealed and paired up with the people and stories from the Land of Almost Awake, a magical place that Granny created for Elsa when Elsa’s parents got divorced. And letter by letter, Elsa works through her grief of losing her Granny and best friend.
Frederik Backman does a masterful job of revealing the thinking of a child who is brilliant, but also still very much a child. He reveals the life of Granny and her beloved granddaughter skillfully in such a way that we cheer for every character and hope for the best outcome for all of them.
I highly recommend this book for all who have had gifted children in their lives. The language is a bit spicy for kids, but young adults may appreciate the insight and wisdom that Elsa and Granny display. They can relate.