The Land-of-Almost-Awake {Book Club}

my grandmother book club

Friends, how are we are the beginning of another month? At least this means another book, am I right?! Before we dive into My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman, we have a couple of Book Club updates. Sarah has been busy behind the scenes, so shout out to Sarah on the first two announcements.

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. 

Several of you mentioned in the survey how you would like to read past discussions linked to the books we have read, but it can be confusing to find them. We agree and this was the nudge I needed. I contacted our web designer explaining what I thought might work but said since he’s the web expert any way he could bring this vision to life would be great. People! He exceeded all expectations. If you will click here and go to the Book Club page, you will see the bookshelf that has always been there, what is new is that under every book are the blog posts related to that book.

When I first saw the updated page after Sarah had added 239 posts—I was curious how many Book Club posts we’ve had and am a bit shocked at the number and that Sarah got them added so quickly—anyway, when I first saw the page I was sitting by a lake with my sisters. We were watching the girls (my nieces) out on the water. I could not believe how amazing the Book Club page and archive looked and thrust my phone into their faces. I might have squealed. Needless to say, as wonderful as my sisters are, they did not respond with incredible ooh and ahhs. It was more, “Oh that’s nice.” Nice?! No, it is incredible.

So, thank you for nudging us to improve, to Ted for designing it, and to Sarah for doing the legwork. Enjoy :)!

Short announcement #3 we have chosen our fall book! You might have noticed it last week at the bottom of the post. Officially we will be reading Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren. So good!

Whew, lots going on! And now we get to discuss Chapters 1-8 in My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman. If you recall we read another Backman book last August: A Man Called Ove: A Novel. (In case you missed it, you can easily read through the discussion! Still excited.) While I’m not quite ready to say we will read a Backman every August, I’m loving reading another one and have thought it would be fun to read Brit Marie next summer.

I love the similarities:

  • Shout outs to cars
  • An animal that exudes personality (I hope we get to see Our Friend!)
  • A hospital
  • The interaction between a child and an older person
  • The story involves a community of interesting people

But this story stands on its own. I am aching that Elsa is experiencing bullying at school and that her main advocate has died. I’m so curious to find out if the secret language between Elsa and Granny is an actual language. I’m guessing it is based on the fact that The Monster spoke it.

Granny is a character, isn’t she? In the first chapter, I wondered, “Do we have another cranky Ove on our hands?” But then I read, “‘I’m not stupid, Granny. I know you did all that stuff tonight to make me forget about what happened at school.’ Granny kicks at some gravel and clears her throat. ‘I didn’t want you to remember this day because of the scarf. So I thought instead you could remember it as the day your Granny broke into a zoo—'”

And now she’s dead.

Initial thoughts:

  • Between superheroes, the secret langauge, and the Land-of-Almost-Awake there is a fairy-tale element to this story.
  • I’m hoping Elsa’s parents get more plugged into what is happening at school with Elsa.
  • I love that Granny knew she was dying and did the best she could to help Elsa by giving her a mission. This reminded me of a movie, but the name escapes me. Anyone know what I”m talking about? The main character has autism and his dad died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Ring any bells?
  • We don’t know the name of three key characters: Our Friend, The Monster, and the girl.
  • I had to laugh when Elsa said this about the girl who could quote stuff about Harry Potter from the movies but hadn’t actually read the books, “And while Elsa didn’t want to be elitist or anything, how could one be expected to reason with a person like that?” Ha! I know I’ve felt that way about other books.

Are you thinking about Ove too as you read? What lines have stood out to you? Again, I’m impressed with the translator!

See you in the comments,


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


  1. Suzanne August 7, 2018

    Interesting stats from the survey – thanks to those who worked so hard to get this information together and easy to follow.

    7 and 77 … two very cool ages … my mum is about to turn 77 (next week) and it’s fun to think of her as such a cool grandma. I hope she lives long beyond 77 though!!

    As for the translator – wow! I’m impressed. Henning Koch is his name. I’m a translator too – just from Chinese to English, written, and just as a sideline. Because I admire this translator a lot, I read more about him. He is a 56 year old author and is proud of being an author – fair enough – though I suspect from an interview I read that most of his income comes from literary translation. I hope he gets a share of the royalties and not just a one-off payment for this book. He was born in Sweden but has lived most of his life in English speaking countries. I don’t really want to read his own books (based on the blurbs) and don’t know where he stands in matters of faith, but this statement from him was interesting: ” In my latest book I tried to produce a witty deconstruction of organized religion and a fresh perspective on Jesus and what he really represents to me. I am not religious, but I am interested in spirituality. It took me years of practical exploration before I was ready to say all that.” ( accessed 7 Aug 2018)

    As for the story line, I’m enjoying the real part well enough but getting a bit lost in the fairy tales. I know that they likely reflect reality and are very deep and meaningful eg Granny putting the dragons there, but I think a bit of it is going over my head. Nevertheless, it’s an entertaining book, which I’m enjoying listening to as an audiobook.

    1. Amy Young August 13, 2018

      Suzanne, thanks for the info on the translator! I’ve been very impressed with his ability (I’m too lazy to look, but am assuming he does all of Backman’s books so that the translation “voice” stays the same). And like you, I certainly hope he is fairly compensated for his work! I’m guessing if he did a one-off for the first book, he set up a different deal for later books seeing as how they have taken off :).

      The fairy tale was confusing me too. But it’s slowly coming together as I get further in. I’m thinking that it’s also a realistic feel of a seven-year-old :). I try to track with that age, and mostly do! Every now and then, however, I get lost in what they are trying to communicate:!

  2. Michelle August 10, 2018

    I’m so excited to be going through this book. I read it last year around this time. So it’s hard to not want to discuss things that are to come. But I will say this, having experienced a good deal of trauma since moving overseas, I love the way trauma is handled in this book. And the way real life turns into fairytales that somehow make it more manageable. I love the spunk that Granny has. And how she meets Elsa on her level and gives her strength to face the world. I also love the way Backman first introduces characters to us in the way the world sees them at first glance, but then goes deeper to show you who they are as people. Looking forward to the unfolding and revealing of Elsa’s neighbors with you all.

    1. Amy Young August 13, 2018

      Michelle, love the insight on how Backman introduces the characters in the way the world sees them and then lets us see who they really are!

  3. Phyllis August 12, 2018

    I am loving this book! It solidifies Backman as an author that I really like. I’m in awe of the translator, but I also think it says a lot for an author that he can write in a way that translates well.

    It’s really tearing me up that little Elsa is being bullied, and the adults in her life don’t know or help. 🙁

  4. Rachel Kahindi August 14, 2018

    I am loving the fairy tale part! Fantasy is so fun, and I would love it if Miamas turned out to be totally and completely real, though I don’t think it will.

    But then The Monster speaks the secret language, and it’s written in strange symbols (am I remembering this correctly? It’s been a while since I read that part), which makes me think it’s a real language that uses Non-Roman script.

    I had no idea that this was not originally written in English. I don’t really know anything about this author. ?

  5. Stephanie August 31, 2018

    I just wanted to let you know that I loved this book!!! I downloaded it and thought I would follow along with you all only reading the sections that were “assigned”. Once I started though I couldn’t stop. Thanks so much for the recommendation. I may not make many comments but I will definitely be following along to see which books you are reading in the Book Club!

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