My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry: A Novel

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry: A Novel

by Fredrik Backman


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A charming, warmhearted novel from the author of the New York Times bestseller A Man Called Ove.

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy—as in standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-strangers 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 instructions lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and old crones but also to the truth about fairy tales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is told with the same comic accuracy and beating heart as Fredrik Backman’s bestselling debut novel, A Man Called Ove. It is a story about life and death and one of the most important human rights: the right to be different.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501115073
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication date: 04/05/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 10,860
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Fredrik Backman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove (soon to be a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks), My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Britt-Marie Was Here, Beartown, Us Against You, as well as two novellas, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer and The Deal of a Lifetime. His books are published in more than forty countries. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children. Connect with him on Twitter @BackmanLand or on Instagram @backmansk.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy—as in 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 fairy tales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry begins with the pronouncement, “Every seven-year-old deserves a superhero.” (page 1) Do you agree? Why is it so important that children have heroes? Who were your heroes when you were a child?

2. Names play a significant part in Elsa’s grandmother’s stories. How do the various kingdom and heroine names from the Land-of-Almost-Awake (Miamas, Miploris, Mimovas, Wolfheart, the Chosen One, the sea-angel, etc.) inform your understanding of Granny’s stories? Did you agree with how their real world counterparts were portrayed in the stories?

3. Elsa’s mother grew up in a nontraditional family environment. Do you think this influenced her parenting style with Elsa? In what ways?

4. Were you surprised by the ways in which each of the apartment tenants were connected to the others? Which relationship surprised you the most? Why?

5. Granny is a polarizing figure in My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. Describe the way each of the characters reacts to her. Do you think their opinions of her are justified? Why or why not? What did you think of Granny? Do you know anyone like her?

6. Discuss the role that books, especially the Harry Potter novels, play in Elsa’s life. Why do you think Elsa relates to the Harry Potter books more than other novels? When you were growing up, were there books you particularly loved? Which ones and why?

7. What did you think of Britt-Marie when you first encountered her? Did she remind you of anyone in your life? Where do you think Britt-Marie goes at the end of the novel?

8. Elsa believes that her “teachers are wrong. [She] has no problems concentrating. She just concentrates on the right things.” (page 47) What kinds of things does Elsa concentrate on? How does this create problems for her? Do you think that Elsa is a good student? Why or why not?

9. Which of the characters in My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry surprised you the most? Why?

10. Discuss Britt-Marie’s marriage to Kent. Did you think they were well suited for each other? Do you think the marriage changed Britt-Marie? How can being in a bad relationship affect someone’s personality?

11. Fairy tales can provide a way to teach children some fundamental truths about the world. How do Granny’s fairy tales help Elsa understand the world around her? What lessons does Elsa take away from the tales her Granny tells her about life in the land of Miamas?

12. When her grandmother dies, Elsa is of course sad, but she also experiences a wide range of other emotions, including anger. Can you name some of the others? Consider how the loss of a loved one can lead us to have feelings that are much more complicated than sadness.

13. In this book, as in his previous novel A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman paints a vivid portrait of the relationship between an older person nearing the end of his or her life, and a young child. What can people at the opposite ends of life learn from one another? How are the very old and the very young alike? How are they different? When you were very young, was there an elderly person who played a significant role in your life? What did you learn from them?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Kirkus Reviews says My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry puts Backman “Firmly in league with Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman.” Read some of Dahl’s and Gaiman’s works and discuss them with your book club. Do you see any similarities between the works? What are they?

2. Granny’s fairytales provide comfort to Elsa. Why do you think that fairy tales are comforting to her and other children? Share some of your favorite fairy tales with your book club.

3. One of the themes in My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is the attempt of one generation to reach another via fantastic stories, both successfully in the case of Elsa and Granny, and unsuccessfully in the case of Granny and Elsa’s mother. As a group, watch the movie Big Fish, which similarly explores this idea and contrast the ways in which the fairy tales in each story play a part in the intergenerational relationships.

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My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 77 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All of the pieces fell I to place. I cried through the last few chapters. The heartbreak and strength of each character is beautiful. I missed the characters after I was done reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a wonderfully astute look at the charms, foibles, mistakes, and victories that make human beings what we are. It has everything a fairy tale should: heroes, dragons, brave knights, and even a princess. Thematically, it has shades of the movie Big Fish. And to the person who complained that this book had "too much imagination," I can only say, seriously? Is that a thing? Maybe you ought to be reading IRS procedural manuals instead. One can assume you'll find a sufficient dearth of imagination there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The inside of a 7 yr old's mind and that of her dying grandmother may appear to be diametrically opposed, but nothing could be further from the truth in this beautiful novel about love and hate and being different. I enjoyed every sentence. This is a novel you will not forget, EVER. Told from a reality perspective intertwined with Fairy Tale characters, the entire book was a mix of exactly what you would expect from a 7 yr old girl who is dealing daily with the ugliness of life superimposed by a sheen of fantasy, in hopes that all the fears of childhood can somehow be made more palatable when explained in the guise of an imaginary place with imaginary creatures. Don't open this novel expecting anything common or usual. Keep your imagination free from expectation and, I promise, you will not want the story to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel honors the special relationship between grannys and their grandchildren. What a joy to read . . . And remember my own wonderful grandmother!
Rose_Colored_Glasses More than 1 year ago
The characters are loveable especially our heroine "almost eight years old" Else. The writing is smooth and fluid. I'm half-way through and don't want it to end. I've loved it since page one. If you're willing to open you eyes and heart you'll see the beauty in the stories. It reminds us to not judge; there is more to a person than meets the eye and sometimes there is sanity and even kindness in ciaos. It IS worth the read.
BrandieC More than 1 year ago
Last year, I discovered the Best Translated Book Award, and since then, I have been reading a lot of fiction in translation. I'm so thankful that this path led me to Fredrik Backman's My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, originally written in Swedish but scheduled for release in English in the United States next week. I loved this book! On the surface, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry is about "almost-eight-year-old" Elsa's quest to deliver a series of apologetic letters to friends of her recently deceased grandmother. Her journey is by turns hilarious and terrifying, and the book is well worth reading for this plot alone. However, Backman uses his story to explore deeper and more rewarding themes: whether a woman can truly balance a demanding career with motherhood without sacrificing one to the other; the special, and often magical, relationship between a grandmother and her grandchild; the perils and rewards of being "different." Both Elsa and Granny are complex and delightful characters; here is Elsa describing herself and Granny: "Other adults describe her as 'very grown-up for her age.' Elsa knows this is just another way of saying 'massively annoying for her age,' because they only tend to say this when she corrects them for mispronouncing 'déjà vu' or not being able to tell the difference between 'me' and 'I' at the end of a sentence. . . . "You can tell she’s old because her face looks like newspaper stuffed into wet shoes, but no one ever accuses Granny of being grown-up for her age. 'Perky,' people sometimes say to Elsa’s mum, looking either fairly worried or fairly angry as Mum sighs and asks how much she owes for the damages." While my maternal grandmother was not quite as eccentric as Granny (having never stood naked on her balcony shooting at Jehovah's Witnesses with a paintball gun, for example), she too left a career she loved (in her case, as a professional dancer) to take care of me while my newly-divorced mother worked two jobs to support us. I still recall vividly the day she stopped at the drycleaner after picking me up from school and got so engaged in talking with an acquaintance that her Lincoln Continental (with me inside) rolled backward into a telephone pole before she realized she had forgotten to put it in park. Elsa and Granny would have understood perfectly as they watched us laughing hysterically once she caught up with the car. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry is that rare book which transports you back to the wonders of childhood, where even the irritating middle-aged neighbor may turn out to be a princess in disguise, while simultaneously urging you to reassess those memories with the wisdom of age. There is something here for every reader. I received a free copy of My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great characters and never boring. Wish I could read it again for the first time.
RealReneeJones More than 1 year ago
*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review from Grace at LovingDemBooks and Simon & Schuster, as a part of Booktube Tours. As always, all opinions are my own.* Going into this, I was very intrigued by the premise, but the biggest thing that worried me was the fact that our protagonist is seven years old. Books told about such young main characters can sometimes feel a bit stilted and juvenile. However, that wasn't the case at all with this book. The writing style was very witty and solid, and the pacing was done well. I knew that Elsa's grandmother was going to die from the very beginning. It's in the synopsis. It's the inciting incident that sends our main character on a journey for self-discovery and peace. But it still made me so, so sad, because Elsa feels like her Granny is the only one in the entire world who understands her, and due to circumstances that are out of both of their control, Granny passes away. Elsa is just a little girl, and she feels so much, and she has no idea how to go on without her grandmother. Heart-wrenching. This is a seven year old girl trying to cope with the death of a person she had known and adored her entire life. It's brutal, truly, because while Elsa uses these very large, intelligent words, she's still so very young, and she still has no idea how to deal with all the changes that are happening in her life all at once. I think most of all, this book is about humanity. The little details that bring color to our lives, the heavier things that weigh us down. It's about friendship and youth and finding magic in an ugly, ordinary world. I absolutely loved it and I can't wait to read more from this author.
LyricalVixen91 More than 1 year ago
This book was pretty amazing. I'm giving this a 3.5 stars meaning I liked it. I would have given it a 4 star rating, but this was definitely outside of the box for me as far as contemporary reads go (in a good way). I enjoyed the writing style, the characters, the humor and the "almost" fantasy feel to it. This was like no other book I've read before. I definitely recommend this book for a light, whimsical yet thought provoking read. The book is written in the perspective of 7 year old Elsa before and after the death of her grandmother. I've read MG books in my days, but nothing ever from the perspective of a child. Elsa and her grandmother are like two peas in a pod. Always with one another, always arguing, always loving and always having fun. Elsa grew up on fairy-tales that her grandmother would tell her about. When her grandmother dies, she is sent on a mission (by her grandmother) to deliver letters to those that her grandmother has wronged. Elsa begins a mission of wonder. Elsa is a very different 7 year old. She's very intellectual, questions everything, never holds back and speaks her mind. Elsa was an amazing character from start to finish. She made me laugh and cry. Not once did I find myself thinking that I disliked her. Elsa was very strong and smarter than half the adults in her apartment building. She was lovable and annoying all at once. There was never a dull moment with her. Elsa's grandmother was a whirlwind of sarcasm and crazy. She was not your average grandma. She always knew how to have fun and spoke whatever and however she felt. She didn't care for the age, gender or profession of the person. As the story progressed on I did find myself disliking her for things in her past, but as this book continued to unravel I realized how amazing Elsa's grandmother was. Just amazing. The fairy tales in the story start off sounding like any fairy-tale, but then some parts get confusing. It wasn't until the last 10 chapters or so that everything started to make sense about these "fairy tales" that I really began to appreciate this book a lot more. The humor and "fantasy" aspects made this book fun, but when Elsa (being only 7 years old) began to really dive deep and understand each fairy tale and how real they were to her life it just blew my mind. Each character was amazing. From Alf to Britt-Marie to Maud to Wolfheart, Sam, the wurse and everyone in the building. I love how each character had their own personality and issue, but how well they all meshed together, grew up together and really lived like a family. The writing within this was just impeccable. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and definitely would recommend this to anyone. It is a bit slow paced, but with every few pages you'll be cramping from laughter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this before a man called ove and I loved this book more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Goes to prove how little we know the ones closest to us, especially our parents. Touching odd story about the lost of a little girl's grandma and best friend
Salgal More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was boring. Too much fantasy and convoluted characters. UGH!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I dont read these kind of books but i am glad i did . It kept my atte tion and will read the other of two by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Imagination explosion! Usually when I experience this kind of literature, it takes place in schools of witchcraft or in Middle Earth. But the setting is in real time Sweden, and I just loved the language. I loved the writing. I loved the very creative way this grandmother protected her granddaughter. I loved how the story was seen through the granddaughter's eyes. I loved the imperfections of the characters as the story wouldn't function without them. And real life occurs in the imperfect. Well done!
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
Never in my wildest dreams did I expect this novel to unravel like it did. I was anticipating a novel based on a relationship with a granddaughter and her granny but immediately upon reading the first couple pages, I knew I was being thrown into something much more. Talks of superpowers, secret kingdoms and the Land-of-Almost-Awake, I knew that the line between realism and fantasy were going to be breeched. Granny created this fantasy world of Land-of-Almost-Awake but as the novel deepens this line between fantasy and reality begins to vanish. I was swept away in the many stories that granny had stored in her head as she helps Elsa deal with life in the world of Land-of-Almost-Awake as they visit there often. These stories were fascinating and captivating and I knew how Elsa felt as she lost herself in the countless worlds that granny created for her. Eight-year old Elsa relies upon this fantasy world to escape reality which can be overwhelming at times and she depends upon her granny, her only friend, to help her navigate through life. This fantasy world is complex, it’s a highly-structured world with kingdoms, rulers, monsters and creatures whose detailed stories branch off and I longed to know more. You could get lost in this imaginary world, if you let your mind slip away. Back in the real world, Elisa lives in an apartment complex; she was blessed to live under the same roof as granny and many other unique residents. These residents were all unique characters which add spark to the novel. Their flair and personality bouncing off the walls, affecting all they interact with. For just one minute, I wanted to be in granny’s flat with Elsa, lying on her bed staring at her ceiling, just taking it all in. I wanted to see exactly what she was seeing, for it had to be spectacular. I truly loved granny. Everyone should have someone like her in their lives. She added excitement, spontaneity, humor and was truly more than a granny to Elsa. She was Elsa’s everything. I was saddened when I read that Elsa’s granny died and left her side. I feared for Elsa and her future. For suddenly, her real and her fantasy world were abruptly stopped. I seriously was not ready for what emerged from the rest of this novel, for it was as if the book exploded and stories upon stories sprang forth. I feel as if my eyes and heart were awaken as she is sent forth on her final mission from granny. It was such a wonderful and heart-felt novel and totally unexpected. The stories of granny’s fantasy world started to blend into reality and the excitement inside me was hard to contain. The ending….. Oh, the ending… my tissues, the presentation…oh, granny. “It was always you, dear Elsa.” It was so wonderful, “Damn, how I luv you.”
GratefulGrandma More than 1 year ago
The main character in this story is seven year old Elsa, a girl without friends, who is teased and bullied at school. Granny, loves Elsa deeply and even though everyone thinks she is crazy, she will do whatever it takes to make Elsa feel better and take risks. As this story unfolds and you learn more about Granny, it is easy to see why she does what she does, she is a humanitarian who has saved numerous people all the while using her marvelous imagination. Granny shares her fairytale world of The Land-of-Almost-Awake with this lonely little girl to help her to cope with her world. The cast of characters living in the apartment complex or house, come alive in the fairytales. When Granny dies of cancer, she leaves letters for Elsa to deliver. This is where the title comes from. All the letter apologize to the receiver. Elsa participates in a type of scavenger hunt trying to figure out where the next letter is she needs to deliver and in her journey discovers more about the people living in the house as well as her own family. Elsa seems to be a lot older than 7 going on 8, but with all the problems and insecurities she has you can see that little girl in her. This book is a cross between a fairytale, coming of age type story with Wurses, knights, princesses, princes and more. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to parents and grandparents to show them how to deal with children and help everyone understand that it it wonderful and okay to "Be Different" Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
“…storytelling is the noblest profession of all. The currency there is imagination; instead of buying something with coins you buy it with a good story. Libraries aren’t known as libraries but as ‘banks’ and every fairy tale is worth a fortune” My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises is the second novel by Swedish blogger, columnist and author, Fredrik Backman. As with his previous bestseller, this book is flawlessly translated by Henning Koch. Every seven-year-old girl needs a superhero of their own, and Elsa (almost eight) has one: her grandmother. Unfortunately, Granny has cancer and dies just a few days before Christmas and Elsa’s eighth birthday, leaving her rudderless. But before she left, Granny charged Elsa with a mission: a treasure hunt of sorts, involving letters of apology to be delivered to some of the many people Granny has offended over the years. Elsa may feel overwhelmed by her task, but Granny made her a knight in the Land-of-Almost-Awake, so she tries to be brave and fearless. And after a while, Elsa realises that Granny has equipped her with what she needs to face the future without her. Backman has peopled his novel with a wonderful cast of characters, often quirky yet familiar and appealing for all their faults and imperfections. The banter between the characters is enjoyable and often laugh-out-loud funny. Backman’s plot is so cleverly devised that the reader can see events from the perspective of a seven (nearly eight) year old who believes in the fantasy world her granny has created for her, and from the point of view of the adults around her. And that fantasy world, the Land-of-Almost-Awake, is a wonderful thing in itself, with its parallels in the lives, loves and losses of the real-world characters. Backman given his characters many words of wisdom and insightful observations: “People who have never been hunted always seem to think there’s a reason for it. ‘They wouldn’t do it without a cause, would they? You must have done something to provoke them.’ As if that was how oppression works” and “…sometimes the safest place is when you flee to what seems the most dangerous” and “When it comes to terror, reality’s got nothing on the power of imagination” are examples. He also gives Elsa some excellent retorts to adult statements: for ‘It’s complicated.’ Elsa has ‘Yes, until someone explains it to you!’ and for ‘It’s hard to help those who don’t want to help themselves’ she cleverly objects ‘Someone who wants to help himself is possibly not the one who’s most in need of other people’s help’. Backman’s second novel is another winner, and readers will be eager to know what he can come up with next. Funny, sad and truly heartwarming.
Anonymous 10 months ago
NanceeMarchinowski More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this enchanting and magical story about Elsa and her strong relationship with her granny. Humorous, poignant, crazy and everything in between, this story moves through a magical storybook world in tandem with Elsa's real life story. This book is very different from other books I've read in the past, but I think that Fredrik Backman has touched a chord within me, and I will check out his other books. Next on my list is A Man Called Ove.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As told by an almost 8 year old, this book is,at first, a bit confusing but then so captivating I had to finish it as fast as I could. We all have that one person we can rely on and Granny is the one for Elsa.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Backman creates a community of connected people with stories to tell. Fairy tales and myths shroud the key characters and provide for the backdrop for understanding their actions. Seeing this through a seven year old is a bit of a stretch.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Difficult to follow at times due to the unfamiliar fairytale lands, but worth sticking to. Lovely story beginning to end. Fairytales brought to life woven into a thoughtful story of the past shaping the future and how and almost seven year old has to unravel its mysteries to find the treasure.
Deadheaddaisy More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I love the characters, the setting, the plot! The Dewey Decimal Dames, my wonderful book club, selected this book and our discussion was wonderful! A percfect story told through a childs point of view, dealing with disasters, tragedy, war, grief, loss, and starting over. This book is filled with great quotes and interesting fairytales. A must read for anyone who likes to be challenged to find the common thread and pull, unraveling the real story. Thank you NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to review this wonderful book for my honest opinion.