After reading Fredrik Backman’s “A Man Called Ove”, he’s become my new obsession.
There aren’t many writers out there who draw your soul into a story like he does. You see the characters. You root for them. You feel their sorrows and hopes and triumph. You sit in bed at 2am weeping for them, and smile when things finally begin to work for them.
Because deep inside, these stories mirror yours. Your story is buried inside words and you recognise this. So, it stops being about the characters really; it’s about you. And me. Hoping we’ll get a happy ending eventually.
I read Backman’s novella “And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer”.
It’s a very short complete-in-one-sitting kind of book that tells the story of a man searching for the best way to tell his son and grand son goodbye.
His greatest fear isn’t death; it’s not remembering. It’s waking up each day knowing your memory will fail you. That you’ll stare at the people who meant the world to you and have no recollection of who they are. That you’ll pick your favourite book for 10 years and not know why it was so perfect for a decade. That the words you loved so much, or the numbers that excited you means nothing.
I would fear that. Not death. Never death. Not going grey or wrinkled. I look forward to it. I would fear forgetting; looking into the mirror and not knowing. Scratching at the surface of consciousness and not being able to dig within. It’s frustrating today to have a word right there at the tip of my tongue and yet my mind betrays me. It’s frustrating to feel like I need to recall something and yet can’t access the file. But to know that one day it’ll simply be a natural reaction to aging…
Noah, his grandson, takes this in strides. He’s a child who loves numbers like his grandpa. But he also understands adult complexities because his grandpa always spoke to him like an adult.
Ted, the son, likes words and music. He never got along with his father. He taught himself to ride a bike.
… Grandparents dot on their grandkids because they’re trying to apologise to their children for being bad parents.
I can live with this.
Backman weaves an emotional, compelling story of family, love, regret and hope. All fundamental themes familiar to us.
There’s a hospital room at the end of a life where someone, right in the middle of the floor, has pitched a green tent. A person wakes up inside it, breathless and afraid, not knowing where he is. A young man sitting next to him whispers:
“Don’t be scared.”
The person sits up in his sleeping bag, hugs his shaking knees, cries.
“Don’t be scared,” the young man repeats.
A balloon bounces against the roof of the tent; its string reaches the person’s fingertips.
“I don’t know who you are,” he whispers.
“You look different, Noahnoah. How is school? Are the teachers better now?”
“Yes, Grandpa, the teachers are better. I’m one of them now. The teachers are great now.
“That’s good, that’s good, Noahnoah, a great brain can never be kept on Earth,” Grandpa whispers and closes his eyes.