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IN What We’re Reading: ‘And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer’

book-review-cover

REVIEWED BY TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

Grab The Tissues, Fredrik Backman’s Touching Novella of Memory Loss Will Leave You In Tears 

You can’t remember a thing these days.

Whatchamacallit’s name doesn’t come quite as easily anymore. You can’t recall the title of that movie you used to love. Thingamabobs are never where you put them last, your glasses are on top of your head and, as in the new novella, “And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer” by Fredrik Backman, your storage square shrinks.

In the story, Noah didn’t know where he was, exactly. Grandpa didn’t give him a map or compass. That was always part of the game. Grandpa would take Noah somewhere and Noah would figure out how to get them home. But this time, Grandpa forgot and now they found themselves sitting on a bench, surrounded by things that looked faintly familiar to the boy.

The old man didn’t know for sure why his forehead was bleeding and he didn’t think Noah should be sitting next to him on the bench. Everything had gotten smaller, very quickly. It all seemed strange, until he saw the 16-year-old beauty he’d fallen for, 50 years before.

He held her hand again, wondering why she left and whether math could prove that he’d meet her in heaven, just as he’d hoped.

And there they sat, boy and man, side by side in a town square that smelled of hyacinths – the kind that Noah’s grandma used to grow. Noah hated seeing Grandpa so sad, but he knew everything would be all right. He had yelled for his dad when grandpa fell.

For Grandpa, things kept getting smaller. Soon, they’d be gone, fluttered and cluttered inside his brain. Grandpa wanted to keep Noah from disappearing … to keep him forever.

Oh, how Grandpa hated goodbyes…

Two words for those who read this novella: bring tissues, bring a carton of them — and that might not be enough.

And yet, here’s the thing: the story doesn’t always make any sense the first time, maybe not even the second time. It feels too dream-like to make sense. It’s not clear at first who’s even who. But it’s so lightly nuanced, so subtly told in wispy bits of memory that you’ll cry just the same. When you’ve finished this book and dried your tears, give it another go.

At less than 100 pages, it won’t take you long to finish and it won’t take long for you to want to share it with others.

“And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer” is a story you’ll remember.

 

Terri Schlichenmeyer is a freelance writer based in Wisconsin.

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