I really loved the first tale in this pairing that when I read the latter, I realized there were many similar things between the two books. I find it fascinating that one story can be almost like another, yet completely different at the same time. It is definitely a good thing for readers, otherwise it would be hard to suggest new titles! The thread that brings these novels together are the themes of a close relationship between young girls and senior women, humor and hidden secrets. In the first book, Elsa is seven years old and has a strong friendship with her grandmother—indeed, she is about the only real friend that the little child has. When her grandmother dies from cancer, Elsa is left to deal with the loss but also a mission that her grandmother left behind: deliver personal letters addressed to her neighbors in the apartment building that Elsa is living in, with her divorced mom. The letters are like puzzle pieces that link all the neighbors together and becomes the key to the many stories that Elsa’s grandmother used to tell her. She discovers that the tales were not too far from reality, even though they sounded fantastical. With the second book, Willow is ten and has a very old mother. Since her mom gave birth to her late in life, many times, Willow fears that she will be left alone very soon at a young and vulnerable age. Sometimes, kids in her school think she is living with her grandmother. Her mother smokes heavily and Willow believes that cancer (nicknamed “the bear”) will snatch her only parent away from her. She also finds out that her mother apparently had a lover when she was much younger (before she married Willow’s now deceased father), who was sent to jail for an unknown reason. It is up to Willow to find this man and uncover the secret that has been withheld from her for all these years. The senior women in each story are quite outlandish in their behavior and don’t hold back their profane opinions. Actually, they seem like the same person at times! In both stories there is dark and light humor, with sad or dramatic moments but overall, quite nice and hopeful. Each novel also contains interesting characters that you won’t soon forget and features a dog too. One more bonus with Backman’s book is that if you liked Harry Potter, you will certainly enjoy some references that are mentioned in it.