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.
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!
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?
- 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.