Published by Atria Books on November 1st 2016
From the New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here comes an exquisitely moving portrait of an elderly man’s struggle to hold on to his most precious memories, and his family’s efforts to care for him even as they must find a way to let go.
“Isn’t that the best of all life’s ages, an old man thinks as he looks at his grandchild, when a boy is just big enough to know how the world works but still young enough to refuse to accept it.”
Grandpa and Noah are sitting on a bench in a square that keeps getting smaller every day. The square is strange but also familiar, full of the odds and ends that have made up their lives: Grandpa’s work desk, the stuffed dragon that Grandpa once gave to Noah, the sweet-smelling hyacinths that Grandma loved to grow in her garden.
As they wait together on the bench, they tell jokes and discuss their shared love of mathematics. Grandpa recalls what it was like to fall in love with his wife, what it was like to lose her. She’s as real to him now as the first day he met her, but he dreads the day when he won’t remember her.
Sometimes Grandpa sits on the bench next to Ted, Noah’s father—Ted who never liked math, prefers writing and playing guitar, and has waited his entire life for his father to have time for him, to accept him. But in their love of Noah, they have found a common bond.
Grandpa, Grandma, Ted, and Noah all meet here, in this peculiar space that is growing dimmer and more confusing all the time. And here is where they will learn to say goodbye, the scent of hyacinths in the air, nothing to fear. This little book with a big message is certain to be treasured for generations to come.
How could I could not say no when the publisher asked if I’d like to review this book?? Though I don’t read many novellas, I am an absolute evangelist for anything written by Fredrik Backman. I would read his grocery lists. (5 stars, I’m sure!)
I met the Fredrik Backman at BEA this year and was a little surprised to find that he’s absolutely nothing like his aging, curmudgeonly characters. In fact, he’s quite young and charming. I tried my best to convince him that the wurse in My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry was based on a Newfoundland. And not just any Newfoundland, but my Newfoundland. He made the legitimate argument that the wurse could not be a Newfoundland because it was, in fact, a wurse. Which, by definition, cannot be a dog. He did graciously concede that there are several undeniable shared characteristics and so I let the matter rest. But I digress…
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer is a beautiful story of the very special relationship between Noah and Grandpa. Grandpa has dementia and is struggling to simultaneously hold onto his memories and prepare Noah for what is to come.
“Noahnoah, promise me something, one very last thing: once your good-bye is perfect, you have to leave me and not look back. Live your life. It’s an awful thing to miss someone who’s still here.”
Grandpa is worried about Noah and how he will move on. He has some regrets about the amount of time he spend with Noah’s father when he was growing up. He misses his his dead wife terribly and consults her for advice. Through these conversations, we get a glimpse of his former self and the deep love between them. It is both very sad and very beautiful.
As someone had cared for many, many patients with memory impairment, I feel the author did amazing job of portraying the senses of fear, loss, and regret experienced by Grandpa. The period of time when a person comes to the understanding that they are losing their memories, but can do nothing about it, is often the most difficult. The loss of control and independence is overwhelmingly frustrating and saddening.
Fredrik Backman has once again proven that he is THE master of creation when it comes to well-developed, unique, and lovable characters in literary fiction.
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer is a perfect December book club choice. With only 96 pages, it’s a one-sitting read sure to please even those with the most hectic of schedules.
Many thanks to Atria Books for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.