“Every seven-year-old-deserves a superhero.” These are the words that begin this wonderful story about young Elsa and the adventures her granny leads her on. Through the story, Elsa discovers her own strength, truly sees the people around her for the first time and discovers the truth about the life her grandmother led. Elsa is exceptionally smart, but seemingly afraid of her own shadow. Elsa’s granny is anything but conventional. Most people think Granny is certifiably crazy. She ruffles feathers and bucks the system at every opportunity, but her love for her granddaughter is tender and genuine.

Elsa’s life is in upheaval. Her parents are divorced. Her mom is remarried and about to have a new baby. Her dad seems to be uncomfortable and disconnected around her. Elsa lives with her mom and stepdad and granny in an apartment building that is full of peculiar neighbors that mostly just terrify Elsa, and who seem to be some of the main targets of Granny’s tricks and torment. To top it off, Elsa is relentlessly bullied at school and her only comfort and happiness comes from the time she spends with her grandmother who is her “best, and only friend”.

Granny creates an entire fantasy world for Elsa called The Land-of-Almost-Awake. It is full of citizens that are unique, mystical, and quite terrifying at times. But it is a place that Elsa has grown to know and love and a place where she has superpowers to conquer the things that scare her. When Elsa’s granny dies well before Elsa is ready to let her go, Elsa feels terrified and angry at her Granny for abandoning her. Then she discovers that Granny has given her a mission to complete. She must deliver a series of letters to individuals to whom Granny felt she owed an apology. Now it seems that through her many outrageous antics, Granny has plenty to be sorry for, but through the deliveries Elsa is forced to find her courage, make new friends, and realize that Granny truly was a superhero in her own way.

Though this book did take me a while to get into, I had fallen in love with the story by the time I had finished. Fredrik Backman has a unique writing style that readers tend to either love or hate. Though the subject matter in his books gets a little bleak and gloomy at times, Backman tells each story with an underlying charm and dark humor that is hard to resist. He does a great job of developing each character by showing that there is often much more beneath the surface of the uptight neighbor who likes to report everything that bugs her to the police and the man who only comes out at night and the woman who has too much to drink and always ends up shouting in the night. The characters are very real, showing the good, the bad and the ugly.

Backman is a Swedish author whose other famous books include A Man Called Ove, Britt-Marie Was Here, and the novella, And Every Morning The Way Gets Longer and Longer. Backman also has a new title, Bear Town, which was released on April 25, 2017. The Yankton Community Library has these titles available in print, audio, and e-books, along with a copy of the DVD adaptation of A Man Called Ove. Though you will need the subtitles (unless you speak Swedish), it’s a great glimpse into Backman’s unique work and style.