Last month I reviewed Fredrik Backman’s novella The Deal of a Lifetime, which was actually his second novella. His first one was titled And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer–a whopper of a title. For all its lengthy title, the story itself is brief as can be. I read all 76 pages in less than an hour. Backman packed a powerful lot of wonderful into one very tiny book.
The story is about an old man and his grandson, whom the grandpa calls “Noahnoah” (long for Noah). The grandfather is losing his mind. He has dementia. Already, things are starting to slip and fade from his memory, and he knows where things go from here. He needs to tell his grandson goodbye now, while he still can. He wants to try to explain things to him, to make it easier, or at least to help him be ready.
It’s not clear where Grandpa and Noahnoah are or what is happening around them. There is a sense of danger in Noah’s assurances to Grandpa that help is coming. Everything seems out of place. Nothing quite belongs, and yet it all seems familiar and homey. Shadowy figures come and go, passing quickly by. One old familiar face appears to comfort Grandpa.
Grandpa and Noah are both frightened. They are both a little lost and hurting. In the end, all may be lost or erased. Everything will drift away eventually, but love will keep them tethered.
Every time I read another work by Backman, I am impressed all over again with his sharp insight into human emotion and his breathtaking portrayal of human love and pain. “Grandpa’s” dementia is so palpable, from the story’s point of view to its setting–a strange, confusing, disorienting place. His fear and frustration, and his affection for Noahnoah, hum through the pages. Noah’s bravery and his love for his grandfather very nearly made me weep.
Like Backman’s other novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer lacks the whimsical humor and strong sense of community that I so loved about his full-length novels. The story was heartbreaking, and it didn’t leave much hope for readers to cling to. The strong bonds of love between Grandpa, Noahnoah, and the rest of their family were heartwarming and redemptive, certainly; but it was that very love that also made the story so painful. It’s true, after all, what they say: “Grief is the price we pay for love.”
For all the Hallmark movie fans out there who love a good cry, and for everyone else who just likes a good read, this story might be right for you. For everyone who has lost their hold on reality or lost someone they loved, this story is for you, too. For anyone who ever had to say goodbye before it was time, Backman wrote this for you.