Patches the Cat {Book Club}

We are at the point in a book where the pieces are starting to fall together . . . but not enough for me to totally anticipate where this book is headed. I love the building anticipation as my brain is working hard on the pieces. Today we are discussing Chapters 18-26 of My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman.

Pieces that are beginning to fall into place. I think Elsa must be physically small, smaller than is average. In part, that’s why her granny invested so much in her and maybe why she “only has one friend, while Granny has many.” I’m also beginning to see how interwoven the people in the house are. What I’m still not clear on is if they all know how interwoven they are, or was Granny the main one in the know? Granny sure was a complex mix of selfish (as a mother), generous, crass, full of convictions, and feisty. Can you believe “the girl who said no” is Elsa’s mom!

Here are a few lines that stood out to me and I marked in my notes:

“Never mess with somebody who has more free time.” (Ha! So true! Anyone else think of some government offices on the field?)

After asking Alf what the accountant said at the meetings, Elsa noticed, “It’s easier to get people talking about things they dislike than things they like. . . And it’s easier not to get frightened of shadows in the dark when someone is talking, whatever they are talking about.” (Why is it so true that it can be easier to bond over dislikes than likes?)

“I think Alf is our new friend,” Elsa said to the nurse. (Don’t you love that feeling when you realize someone is a friend?)

“It’s a beautiful morning, but a terrible day.” (I can remember the sky when I left Chengdu, Beijing, and moved my dad from the hospital to comfort care, the same could be said in each instance, beautiful, but terrible.)

“Elsa read books to Granny because she wanted someone to discuss them with.” (We get you, Elsa!)

When Elsa asked her dad if he didn’t want any other children because of her. “Yes. You’re perfect.” (What a kind way to handle a fear Elsa has.)

I loved learning the name of the different planets: I love, I mourn, I dream, I dare, I dance, and I fight.

///

At one point as I read this section I wrote in big letters in my notes: Patches the Cat. 

In this book, we are circling back over the fairytales that Granny told Elsa, the fairytales that mix “reality” with “story.” At first, the circling back and forth was confusing and drove me nuts and I didn’t think I was going to like this book. But then it hit me, how do seven-year-olds approach stories?

They do not seem to tire of hearing the same story over and over. And as a part of the story is internalized, then they are able to move on to other parts of the story. We are mostly seeing this story from Elsa’s perspective and the recircling of the stories feels age appropriate.

And familiar.

About 14 years ago, my oldest niece was three and on a family vacation one night at the dinner table, I pulled out a Patches the Cat story to entertain her while we waited. Who knows for what. The food to come? Others to be ready to leave the table at the end of the meal? Regardless, I told her about my cat from childhood, Patches. As I sit here thinking of my beloved cat, I can see how much he and Granny share when it comes to personality. Selfish (we had two cats), generous, crass, full of convictions, and feisty. Yup, that was Patches.

Honestly, I had plenty of Patches stories to keep us going for a long time, he was that kind of cat. Then my younger nieces started getting old enough to hear the Patchy Stories, as they were lovingly dubbed. As the years went by and the stories became familiar there was a clamoring for more, more, more. So, Patches took a turn towards the fanciful. Like Elsa, my nieces began to be confused about what was “real” and what was a “story.” They would always have to clarify, “Aunt Amy, did that really happen?”

For example, there was the time that Patches broke the human / animal barrier at the Olympics when he won the gold medal for the high dive. (Oh the back stories on how he got into diving and where he bought his swimsuits to accommodate his tail will have to wait for another day). I can’t tell you how many times I was asked, “Aunt Amy, did Patches really earn a gold medal?” I’ll let you be the judge.

There were times I was so sick of the Patchy Stories I wanted to poke my eyes out. But by telling those stories, like Granny, I was able to introduce the girls to a part of our family history.

So, this section has had me thinking about the role of storytelling in family history and how important it is. Did your family tell stories that started out in reality and then morph into fantasy?

I’m curious how the pieces are all going to come together for Elsa and the others. I’m hoping that the bullying will be addressed and that we will learn more about all of the residents. Which residents are you especially drawn to? I’ll see you in the comments!

Amy

P.S. I dug through old photos so you could see Patches. Not gonna lie, I teared up putting this together. I love Patches and I miss him! Do you have a favorite pet?

Reading Plan

August—My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman (May have a different title in Europe: My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologies

  • August 7th: Chapters 1-8
  • August 14th: Chapters 9-17
  • August 21st: Chapters 18-26
  • August 28th: Chapters 27-the end

September—Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali by Kris Holloway (we’ve got something fun up our sleeves for you!)

October/November—Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

Thank you to all who participated in the Book Club survey. Ninety-eight of you answered the questions and helped us (you included) to have a sense of who is here and why Book Club is a special place. Sarah compiled all of the data and put together a summary you will enjoy looking through. Read through the survey here. 

Photo by Laura Thonne on Unsplash

11 Comments

  1. Rachel Kahindi August 22, 2018

    We have a lot of family stories – but they’re all true! My dad told us some urban legends of his own design, but there were no stories with them. For example, we usually rode in Mom’s car, but occasionally we had to ride with Dad. His “filing system” was the floorboard of the backseat. To keep us from stepping on his stuff, he told us he had a pet snake that lived down there. No stories about the snake, just, “It won’t bite you if you don’t step on it.” It worked. We never put our feet in the floorboard of that car.

    It’s so interesting to see how all of these people’s lives are intertwined. I’m liking Art more and more, even when he and Elsa are arguing and yelling at each other. I would be uncomfortable with such a friendship, but they seem to be good for each other. Elsa asked if he was in love with her Granny, and I think he was.

    I was reading some reviews online to see people’s theories about the secret language. And I came across one person who didn’t have any theories about the language, but thought the wurse was some kind of primate. I’ve been seeing it as a Great Dane or some kind of mastiff – big, big dog – but going into this next section, I’m going to test that theory out. Could it be a monkey/ape?

    1. Amy Young August 24, 2018

      Rachel, that snake story! Brilliant :). We have lots of stories from my dad, also all true. It’s funny how often they still come up! It’s only Patches that veered into fantasy after (what felt like hundreds) of hours of telling the stories :). AND on Saturday night as my youngest niece and I left the football game where five people had parachuted in, she said, “Can you imagine the announcer announcing Patches as the first cat to parachute in? He would get a score of 100, Aunt Amy you’d get a 54, and I would probably get a 20.”

      (First of all, notice how Patchy is way better than either of us! Second, I had to smile knowing that this post was already written. Patches really is a part of our vernacular! Back to the actual book :))

      I think the wurse has to be a dog :)! It has to be, right? Otherwise, I get why Britt Marie is NOT keen on it being loose in the building :)!

      1. Rachel Kahindi August 24, 2018

        I’ve finished the book now, and I have to say… It’s a dog.

  2. Michelle Kiprop August 23, 2018

    So many great quotes in this book. So many truths and things to ponder.

    “If you don’t like people, they can’t hurt you. Almost-eight-year-olds who are often described as ‘different’ learn that very quickly.” Oh sweet Elsa. It’s sad when these things are learned at such young ages.

    “‘Sometimes it’s hard to believe in God’ answers the woman. ‘Because you wonder why he didn’t stop the tsunami?’ ‘Because I wonder why there are tsunamis.” Age old questions that are encountered in every culture of the world.

    I found it interesting that Granny didn’t like to visit Miploris anymore because so many of the storehouses had her name on the outside as they held her sorrows. And yet she still taught Elsa about this land. It makes me think about how we process our own sorrows in life. What will I pass on to the next generation about the processing of grief. Elsa made a good point when she addressed how people told her she would move on and recover from granny’s death. The woman in the black skirt (now jeans) still hadn’t moved on had she? We do have so many choices in how we process the hard things that happen.

    How beautiful it was that so many people came to granny’s funeral. And how sad for Elsa and her mom to have to process. The other night I was putting my son to bed. We had a representative from an important donor in our living room. I was abbreviating the bedtime routine so I could go back to the conversation in the living room. “Do you HAVE to go NOW?” my son asked. I have to say, I actually thought of Elsa, her mom, and granny. And I decided that I did not HAVE to go right NOW. The donor could wait, my son could not.

    1. Amy Young August 24, 2018

      Michelle, you tease out such good stuff! The quotes you share, are why I love reading (and reading in this community) — as you said, the age-old questions and realities that we all face: why do bad things happen? Where is God? All of the ways grief are in our lives. I hadn’t noticed that Granny didn’t want to visit Milploris, good catch :)! So much to think about in this book!

      And thanks for sharing about spending a few more minutes with your son. I’m leaving on a big trip today and the day before I leave town, I try and touch base with family members, so I try not to have much scheduled the day before I leave town so I can invest in people. You know how the day(s) before traveling can be so crazy full? I decided several years ago I didn’t like how I felt the day before traveling and I needed to make changes. So, I loved that you spent time with your son 🙂

  3. sarah August 23, 2018

    I had an uncle that would tell us “Shep the Sheep Dog” stories. At the end of every single story Shep would die some horrific death saving the children. And at the end of every story we would cry from sadness over Shep’s death, and every time our uncle came over, we would beg for another Shep story. I think our all time favorite was “Shep and the Hay Baler.”

    1. Amy Young August 24, 2018

      Shep the Sheep dog! And crying :). I love this. Now I want to hear a Shep story 🙂

  4. Suzanne August 23, 2018

    I think of the wurse as a big dog because of the picture on the ‘cover’ (the screen you always see) of the audible version. I like the way the author goes through so much without explaining ‘why’ then makes it all clear, like the chapter around the funeral. All the characters are becoming more likeable as the author fleshes them out. I want to finish with a photo of my little feline companion, Millie. I was only minding her for three months while her family moved interstate. That was almost three years ago now.

    1. Amy Young August 24, 2018

      Suzanne! I love seeing Millie :). And like you, I have been impressed with the way the author has created the sense that we are also in the story and figuring things out with Elsa. 🙂

    2. Amy Young August 24, 2018

      Millie and Patches look similar 🙂

  5. debraanne a jordan August 26, 2018

    Velvet Ashes ya’ll are awesome! It’s a blessing to read your emails each and every day. Thank you!!!

    Here’s a quote from Oscar Wilde. (… -reminded me of Velvet Ashes). Hope you enjoy!
    “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”.Oscar Wilde

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