MY GRANDMOTHER SENDS HER REGARDS AND APOLOGISES
GENRES/ SUBJECTS: Contemporary, Humour
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.
Oh my gosh. My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises is such a perfect holiday read. Or anytime really. But it’s set around Christmas and is absolutely perfect to read during these months. It’s a book full of contradictions — Elsa and Granny’s magical, fantasy storyworld compared to the harsh realities of the characters’ pasts (war, abuse and traumas), the heartwarming, found-family and festive spirit meets the heart-breaking look at grief and mourning — this is a book that had me both laughing out loud and sniffing back tears in public (on a crowded flight!). In the sea of too-perfect, cheery Christmas films and the mass-marketed cynicalness of gift-giving, My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises is the perfect mix: bittersweet but never saccharine.
I’m really surprised I haven’t seen an adaption made of this yet. I can so very clearly imagine this as one of those ITV two-hour specials or mini-series which tend to air on Christmas Eve. It has such a brilliant range of quirky characters — the chain-smoking, retired doctor Granny, the neighbourhood busybody, the misfit protagonist — but, crucially, they all feel so very real and never like cut-outs.
I loved Elsa. She’s seven years old, brave and precocious but doesn’t quite fit in at her school. She’s full of Harry Potter, Marvel and Wikipedia facts and constantly frustrated by the adults around her. I liked her determination to complete the treasure-hunt style mission her grandmother has set her, even when she’s alone or struggling.
I loved that Backman managed to blend the real-life stories of the house’s inhabitants with the storyworld Elsa imagines. It was a nice way of showing how a seven-year-old might deal with issues too big and difficult for her to easily understand (war, PTSD, working mothers, second families etc.) and dealt with tough subjects while keeping the overall story hopeful.
My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises would be a fantastic read at any time of the year, but if you’ve got time, I’d definitely give it a go this month. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I still think this would be a wonderful story, the holiday aspects are pretty downplayed and the characters are well worth it.