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Day: December 28, 2015

“My Grandmother asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” by Fredrik Backman

My-Grandmother-Asked-Me...

My Grandmother asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” by Fredrik Backman

c.2015, Atria
$25.00 / higher in Canada
372 pages

BOOK REVIEW
by TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

“I forgive you.”

Are there any three more powerful words?  Can “I love you” – also used for countertops, couches, or coats – bestow such mercy?  I don’t think so.

“I forgive you.” In release and relief, those words put things back on track – although, in the new book “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” by Fredrik Backman, the transgressions hardly need absolution.

Every grandmother’s house smells a little different.

Some smell like cookies or old magazines, soup or stale perfume. But seven-year-old Elsa’s granny’s flat – the whole building, in fact – smelled like coffee, cigarettes, a “very large animal of some sort,” and Granny.

For her entire life, Granny was the only friend Elsa had. Granny played games with Elsa, gave her rides in Renault (the car Granny said she won in a poker game), told Elsa stories (Granny loved stories!) and she taught Elsa how to get to the Land-of-Almost-Awake, the magic kingdom of Miamas , and a troubled knight named Wolfheart. Granny had a lot of superpowers, one of which was always being on Elsa’s side.

And that, perhaps, was why she never mentioned the word “cancer” to Elsa. She didn’t want Elsa to know, or to mourn. That was probably why Granny never said goodbye before leaving Elsa with an assignment befitting a knight of Miamas.

The assignment was a treasure hunt (Granny loved treasure hunts!), with clues and messages for people in their building: Britt-Marie, who was a “nag-bag,” and her husband, Kent; the boy who danced, and his mother; Maud, who fixed everything with cookies, and Lennart; Al, who drove Taxi. The first clue took Elsa to the door of a vicious dog that lived downstairs. If the dog didn’t kill her, surely the second delivery would: it was an apology for The Monster, who lived next to the dog.

As Elsa made the deliveries, three more clues appeared until everything – including Granny’s not-so-goodbye – began to make sense. And so did the knowledge that “It’s possible to love your grandmother for years and years without really knowing anything about her.”

Did you ever read a novel that was so captivating that when it was over, you felt a little adrift?  That’s how I was when I finished “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry.”

If you can remember that time in your life when magic was real, grown-ups were mysteries, and you were about to learn the truth about both, then you’re halfway to understanding what makes author Fredrik Backman’s book so appealing: though she’s “insanely” precocious, Elsa still relies on a magic-and-pretend life that’s whisked away so quickly, it’s breathtaking. And yet, that having-to-grow-up-fast time is mercifully aborted by the posthumous wishes of the kind of grandmother you’ll wish you had, the one who knows there’s no need to hurry childhood’s exit.

Bring tissues when you start “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry,” but bring your funnybone, too. It’s that kind of book – one that, if you miss it, you’ll never forgive yourself.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.

Boys surge to sixth on win over Vikings

Celt Cade Goff dribbles around a Forest Grove defender just before putting up a shot. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
Celt Cade Goff dribbles around a Forest Grove defender just before putting up a shot. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

In one of the McNary High School boys varsity basketball team’s most controlled wins in years, the Celts handily defeated the Forest Grove Vikings 76-62 Friday, Dec. 18.

The victory sent the Keizer team soaring up the state rankings to sixth in the OSAA 6A classification.

“Forest Grove is a very talented team, but our kids have practiced and prepared with a sense of purpose that they can win regardless of the situation. They’re not arrogant or cocky, but they are very confident in their abilities and have a strong belief in themselves,” said Ryan Kirch, McNary head coach. “It was just beautiful to watch them at times tonight.”

The Celtics started the game with a 5-0 lead but soon found themselves trailing the Vikings 12-5. Three-point goals by Harry Cavell, Easton Neitzel and Alex Martin help close the gap to 23-18 by the close of the frame, but Forest Grove still led.

A three-pointer by Chandler Cavell kept the Vikings within reach shortly after the beginning of the second period. Coupled with another trey by Martin, McNary then kept the game close. The Celts finally retook the game lead with a two-point goal by H. Cavell with 3:30 to go in the half.

The Vikings took the lead back on their next possession. As the clock was winding down, C. Cavell scored his second three-point goal of the night to give McNary a 41-40 lead and then H. Cavell made a steal and scored on a dunk to give McNary a 43-40 lead going into halftime.

“We shut down (Taylor) Jensen, who is one of the leaing scorers in the state right now, but they had a lot of other guys step up,” said Mathew Ismay. “The only problem was we gave up 40 in the first half, which isn’t something we want to do.”

The second half was all McNary from the get-go. The Celtics scored seven unanswered points at the top of the third frame, five by Ismay.

With limited trips to the foul line, the Keizer boys outscored the Vikings 33-22. Until the Forest Grove match, the Celts had relied on making trips to the foul line to win close games, but only got one in the fourth period this time around.

“We came out strong in the second half and really executed. On defense we played hard and shut down their better players,” said Neitzel.

Kirch said the game came down to some key performances in a strong team effort.

“Mathew doesn’t always get the cheers when you have dunks and three-pointers, but he’s a kid who very rarely makes mistakes. He’s fundamentally sound, he doesn’t turn the ball over, he doesn’t take bad shots, and he was a quiet leader tonight,” said Kirch.

He also lauded the efforts of the Cavell brothers.

“Harry came in and improved on his game by leaps and bounds and really showed what he’s made of. Chandler also came in and played fearlessly. That can be good or bad when it comes to taking shots, but it was mostly a good thing tonight,” Kirch said.

Neitzel said the key to moving forward was keeping an even keel like the team has done so far this season.

“We have to keep being unselfish and keep playing as a team with great chemistry,” Neitzel said.

Ismay said the Celtics were able to build on a strong 72-35 win over North Salem High School three days earlier.

“That was the first time this season when we put it all together for 32 minutes,” Ismay said. “People are starting to notice us and, if we can keep this roll going, we’re going to have a hell of a season.”