We Want To Be Loved {Book Club}

I am satisfied.

That’s how I felt when I finished My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman. Now that I’m at the end and see how complex the pieces of this book are, I can see why it had a slow start. (Did you love the nod in Chapter 33 to Marcel being mentioned in Chapter 2? So clever!)

So many “aha” moments in this section 

Kent and Alf are brothers!

Alf loved Britt Marie but wasn’t careful with his love and she married Kent (who I’m not sure ever deeply loved her).

How the death of a child (Britt Marie’s sister) can be felt for years and years. (I did feel so sorry for Britt Marie when her mum was mad at Granny for “saving the wrong child.” I think I felt my heart actually constrict in my chest when I read that line!)

The Policewoman—of course—knew Granny and was best friends with Elsa’s mum.

And the reason Granny sent Elsa on the treasure hunt in the first place. I loved that Granny wanted Elsa to have a place she would always be loved as she grew up and was an adult. And that the treasure hunt didn’t end in Elsa delivering an “I’m sorry” letter to her mom. I was so glad Granny didn’t “use” Elsa to play that role.

The Quotation from Doctor Glas

First of all, I checked (on Wikipedia for Elsa’s sake), and Doctor Glas is a Swedish novel. It sounds quite depressing (has anyone read it?). But this quote seems to summarize so much of My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry,

“‘We want to be loved,'” quotes Britt Marie. “‘Failing that, admired; failing that, feared; failing that, hated and despised. At all costs we want to stir up some sort of feeling in others. The soul abhors a vacuum. At all costs it longs for contact.”

Isn’t that the truth? The longing we all have for contact, even if it is unhealthy. In part that is why we have a variety of ways to connect at Velvet Ashes!

So many of the people in this book started at the “despised” or “feared” end and moved their way towards the “loved” end.

  • The Monster —> Wolfheart
  • The Drunk —> The woman in a black skirt —> The woman in jeans
  • Sam —> The Shadow —> Sam
  • Britt Marie as she was despised by her mom and bitten by a dog, then grew up to marry Kent and she tried so hard with his kids, then loved Elsa’s mom, and finally Elsa . . . only to have Granny return and take the place of the grandmother
  • Okay, I realize I could go character by character and list them all.

I was looking at a list of book discussion questions and one was, “Discuss the role that books, especially the Harry Poter 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?”

I love how Elsa’s dad was listening to the Harry Potter books so he could connect with her. I haven’t read the Harry Potter books (so those of you who have, please chime in), but I’m guessing she was so taken with them because Harry is an orphan (and Elsa relates because of her parent’s divorce), he is different and finds a way to use his “superpowers” to find his place in the world. It seems that’s what Elsa is trying to do.

As a child I loved Where the Red Fern Grows and The Secret Garden

I am very glad we read this book and let’s plan on reading Britt-Marie Was Here next August. As the book was ending, and Elsa hadn’t gone back to school, I wondered if we were going to be left wondering about the bullying. I’m thankful that Elsa has a friend and that the bullying is over!

What did you think of the ending of My Grandmother? I look forward to discussing this in the comments with you. I’m on vacation, so may be a bit slow in responding, but I will!

Amy

P.S.In September we are going to be reading Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali by Kris Holloway. We also have some fun features and giveaways planned so make sure you join us for Book Club each week! Here’s the reading plan for the month:

September 4th: Intro, Chapters 1-3
September 11th: Chapters 4-5
September 18th: Chapters 6-8
September 25th: Chapters 9-11, Postscript
~Sarah

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

Photo by Farzad Mohsenvand on Unsplash

10 Comments

  1. Hadassah Doss August 27, 2018

    I have been silent, (too much work going into transitioning right now), but I’m SO glad I read this book. I loved it just as much as “A Man Called Ove” and I can’t wait until next August to read the book on Brit Marie! I really can’t! I listened to the book and started relistening the minute I finished, because once you know what the storyline is, you can listen even more carefully and it keeps unfolding every time. This will be a book I will recommend and revisit often. Wish I were as talented a storyteller!

  2. Stacy August 27, 2018

    I, too, adored this book and its characters – each flawed, yet winsome. Great summer read!

  3. sarah August 27, 2018

    I loved how Granny could be so brusque and harsh at times and yet so compassionate in the way she viewed/portrayed people. I especially loved that the woman in the black skirt was an angel in granny story – not a drunk.

    Regarding Harry Potter, I see some similarities between the stories, though I think probably the reason Elsa loved the books was bc Harry had such loyal friends, which she didn’t and probably wanted.
    As far as the stories being similar, I see a group of people slowly becoming friends and binding together to fight a common foe. Also, confusion till the end on who the Chosen One is. What other similarities do y’all see?

  4. Kiera Duncan August 28, 2018

    I really enjoyed the book even though I haven’t commented along the way. At first, I was behind and then I was ahead. 🙂 I liked the narrative voice of Elsa – so child and so adult at the same time. It is definitely different from A Man Called Ove, but just as compelling. I loved trying to figure out who the people were and see the connections that Elsa saw to her Granny’s stories. It kind of gets at that “art imitating life/life imitating art” paradox – sometimes Granny’s stories were about real people turned into fantasy, other times Elsa felt like she was the fantasy character (knight of Miamas) playing out her role in real life. The question about the Harry Potter books is interesting – one connection I see is that Harry is often the underdog (like Elsa is bullied at school), but he has real power and (even better) real friends in his corner.

    1. L. Larsen August 28, 2018

      Kiera, good thoughts on the underdog aspect of Harry Potter. I’m just now reading through the series for the first time (which coincided well with reading this book!) and have been frustrated by how often the adults in the series overlook, enable, or are the cause of unjust treatment of Harry and others. Definitely seems like something Elsa could relate to since the main response adults give when she’s bullied is, “Just try to fit in.”

  5. Suzanne August 28, 2018

    Yes, the character development was lovely. And characters weren’t at all black and white. The way the author played with the story by telling you something then playing around with the story to make you think was fun. One example was the name of the baby – we are told that Elsa will like it, and then she goes through a whole long monologue of speaking to the baby before giving us his name – Harry – right at the end. Or the worst day of her life when someone has a heart attack and a life is lost … and you start out by thinking that Alf is going to have a heart attack because of rubbing his chest and telling Elsa about the pacemaker, then you realize it is Kent and think he will die but then in the end it is The Wurse who dies. (Oh, that was sad – so beautifully sad.)

    As a child, I was a fan of Enid Blyton stories (British), in particular ‘The Faraway Tree’ series, ‘The Famous Five’ books and ‘The Secret Seven’ books. I have a young friend who also loves Enid Blyton and who recently had a baby brother. The parents invited the older siblings to help choose a name, and they went with ‘Timmy’ (actually, ‘Timothy’) which I found quite strange, because ‘Timmy the dog’ was a key character in The Famous Five books. But it their minds, it was an hounour to name their little brother ‘Timmy’ … but I still call him ‘Timothy’.

  6. L. Larsen August 28, 2018

    I, also, loved this book. I love fairy tales and how they were woven into the story (I also love mysteries, so trying to figure out how the tales of Miamas fit with “real life” was a fun bonus!) And the way Granny used the stories to prepare Elsa for some of the harder realities in the lives of those around her (and her own) was beautiful. It reminded me of a quote that I looked and looked for but couldn’t find. Something about how the best kind of fantasy lets you escape from reality for a while, but sends you back better equipped for it. The closest I could find was a C.S. Lewis quote about the importance of fairy tales:
    “Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.” (From “On Three Ways of Writing for Children).

    1. Rachel Kahindi August 30, 2018

      I love that CS Lewis quote! This is one of the reasons I love reading fiction, too.

  7. Rachel Kahindi August 30, 2018

    I loved the book and the characters. I am also looking forward to reading Britt-Marie next year! Sometimes I get hooked on series of books because the plot isn’t resolved until the end – and I hate that. It’s obnoxious, but I still must finish the series even though I don’t care about the characters. But sometimes, I get hooked on series because I love the characters, and whether the plot is resolved in one book or not is irrelevant. I would want to read any book about any of these characters. I also found the ending satisfying.

    As a child, I read a lot of Boxcar Children and Baby-Sitters Club, and BSC Mysteries were the best. Then as a teen it was anything by Madeline L’Engle. I liked BSC because I related to Mary-Anne, personality-wise, not the boyfriend part, and I enjoyed living vicariously through the others. They were so cool. Otherwise, I was drawn to mystery, adventure, and the impossible becoming possible.

  8. Michelle Kiprop September 1, 2018

    I loved this book so much. Backman does such an incredible job of pulling off the layers to really review who the characters are inside. He’s one of my favorite authors. I always feel challenged to take a deeper look st the difficult people in my own life after reading one of his books.

    I’m afraid I’ve not read any of Harry Potter (at least not yet). I grew up on Chronicles of Narnia, and look forward to introducing them to my son sometime soon.

    Granny and her fantasy world challenged me to think about how I process the hard and traumatic, not only personally, but also with the people I love. What am I teaching my son about the hard things in life?

    Just a few favorite quotes from this section:
    “Elsa decides that even if people she likes have been sh-ts on earlier occasions, she has to learn to carry On liking them. You’d quickly run out of people if you had to disqualify all those two at some point had been sh-ts.”

    “..they laugh a lot, because that is how you overcome fears.”

    “ and they do what they can. Try to learn to live with themselves, try to live rather than just existing. They go to meetings. They tell their stories. No one knows if this is the way they are going to mend everything that’s broken inside them, but at least it’s a way toward something. It helps them breathe.”

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