I read this novella twice in an attempt to fully understand the message Backman was trying to convey. After the first reading I knew I had to read it again to really FEEL it. To me, it reads like a letter a father writes to his son. It's an apology of sorts - a goodbye, a heartfelt tale of regret. The father is dying of cancer and as he questions his own life he realizes that he was not the greatest person to those around him. He was selfish and petty. One of the other characters is an old lady who wears a gray sweater and represents a sort of grim reaper. She appears throughout the story at many crossroads where the father finds himself.
Backman is amazing!!! This is the fourth book of his that has completely blown me away. Here he manages in just 65 pages to capture what really matters in relationships. However, the novella left me feeling at a loss, and I cannot put my finger on exactly why. If you haven't yet read it, I suggest reading it slowly, pausing, closing your eyes (that's what I did) and taking in the many beautiful, and often heartbreaking moments. Doing that gave me a much deeper understanding of the book.
I've read many review where people expressed anger at having spent $18.00 for this book. When it arrived and I saw how small it was, and how short the story is, I too questioned paying so much for such a short tale. But as they say, the best things come in small packages and I have no regrets about paying that much for something that leaves me with so much to think about. I will definitely reread this novella many times over and maybe after I do I won't feel that nagging loss that I can't put my finger on.