Backman has brought a unique beauty and intensity of emotion to the words of this moving story. The expressions of feeling suggest poetry and indeed this short story moves in a magical way.
The story is framed around the conditions described so well in the very first paragraph: There is 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.”
Grandpa’s memories of his grandson Noah are stronger and more detailed than his own son, Ted, but both have to say goodbye to him, even though he lives on in his mind and memories. Those memories take him to special places from his past life and he finds his wife who has passed on. They talk and remember, and she tells him that both he and Ted were given Noah as a bridge between them adding that by spoiling their grandchildren it is a way of apologizing to our children.
The story floats back and forth, from settings and dialog in Grandfathers mind, to those taking place.
Backman offers understanding in a letter to the reader at the beginning of the book. He tells us his greatest fear in growing old is that he would lose his imagination before his body gave up. The story seems to confirm that this isn’t the case. He calls the book a love letter between a man and his grandson ,and a dad and his boy. He says he never meant for us to read it. I will take him at his word on that, as it is indeed a love letter of recognizable and familiar feelings for all of us.