I forgive you; 3 small, strong words

“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.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at bookwormsez@gmail.com.

More in Life

Ward off Halloween’s mystical monsters with these garlic-infused cheesy shells and pepper sauce. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Tasty Halloween

Keep spooky creatures at bay with garlic-infused shells and pepper sauce.

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Let there be lights!

When I stopped in at one of our local stores, I didn’t cringe when I saw all the holiday decorations on display.

Cabbage, potatoes, salmon and an assortment of pantry staples make for a culinary challenge. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Take a culinary pop quiz

Get creative with what’s in your pantry

This undated John E. Thwaites photo, perhaps taken near Seward, shows the S.S. Dora grounded. (Alaska State Library photo collection)
Resilience of the Dora, part 3

Her long career had come to an end at last.

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: Sometimes I wonder, who needs who

Dog whispers we are not. Suckers for unconditional love, you bet.

Meredith Harber (courtesy)
Minister’s Message: Don’t let termination dust bring you down

If I’m honest, this time of year is the hardest for me mentally and emotionally.

Pieces hang on display at the Kenai Art Center for the open call show on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘They felt like they could share with us now’

Art center open call offers space for new artists.

The Cosmic Hamlet Entertainment film crew prepares for a new scene to roll on the set of “Bolt from the Blue” at the Kilcher Homestead on Sept. 28. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
‘Bolt from the Blue’ film features Homer

“The Office” star Kate Flannery cast in feature film produced in Homer.

These old-fashioned doughnuts don’t skimp on the fat or sugar. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Memories of old-fashioned doughnuts

My recipe is for old-fashioned doughnuts, and since I make these maybe twice a year, I don’t skimp on the sugar and fat.

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: October is here again

The days are shorter. We are losing nearly six minutes a day. It’s getting colder.

This John E. Thwaites photo shows the S.S. Dora near Sand Point, Alaska. Thwaites sailed as mail clerk on the Dora between at least 1905 and 1912. (Alaska State Library photo collection)
Resilience of the Dora, part 2

The S.S. Dora touched lives on and became part of the history of the Kenai Peninsula and Southcentral Alaska.

Steller Sea Lions can be seen in an enclosure at the Alaska SeaLife Center on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska SeaLife Center to Alaskans: We’re still here for you

You rallied and kept us alive. Today, we’re writing to say thank you.