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The Bookworm Sez: “Things My Son Needs to Know About the World” by Fredrik Backman

The Bookworm Sez: “Things My Son Needs to Know About the World” by Fredrik Backman

There are so many things you want to leave your children. Heirlooms will someday be theirs, obviously, but your gifts won’t be objects. You want to leave them reminders of you, memories to make them laugh, advice to make them think, words they’ll take to heart. You want to leave good people as your legacy,

There are so many things you want to leave your children.

Heirlooms will someday be theirs, obviously, but your gifts won’t be objects. You want to leave them reminders of you, memories to make them laugh, advice to make them think, words they’ll take to heart. You want to leave good people as your legacy, and you might start with “Things My Son Needs to Know About the World” by Fredrik Backman.

As the father of a son, Backman knows that there are things that every Dad wants to tell his son. The first is that when you have a boy-child, it’s inevitable that you’ll embarrass him at some point, either by bringing up something he did once that was enormously cute or by something you’ll wear or say or do. To you, your son will “always be the tiny one-year-old boy standing naked in the hallway…” and he needs to understand that.

He also needs to know that you did your best. Because, well, you’ll do something wrong because you “didn’t know,” just like every parent for centuries “didn’t know” everything there was to know. Even though you have the internet, you’re going to mess up, but you have the best intentions and isn’t that the point?

A good father gives advice on the big things, but he doesn’t ignore the insignificant: like, how to act at big stores, for instance, and how to furnish your first home. He should learn about sports so he can fit in, even if he never actually plays. He should watch for the day when he realizes that he’s got too much “stuff,” and that goes double with a baby in the house.

Remind him that his dad will someday be like his granddad, and forgive him for it. Tell him to listen to his mother because she’s smart; always be a gentleman, which he can do when he’s also treating a woman as an equal; and know that “words matter. Be better.”

Here’s what you need to understand before going further: if you are a fan of author Fredrik Backman’s novels and that’s what you’re expecting here, this book is a big, fat “nope.” That’s because “Things My Son Needs to Know About the World” is not a novel.

However…

If you can forget about wanting a fictional tale, what you’ll find instead is a sometimes-sweet, sometimes-bumbling, sometimes-funny love letter from father to son and husband to wife. Now, keep in mind that Backman is amusing but he’s no comedian: “poop” plays way too big a part in this book, and the humor can feel forced. And yet, you know you can’t resist a story that opens its heart like this one does, to tell a tale of love, and giving in to get more of it.

For parents, this’ll be a sweetly welcome respite when you need something light on the subject of childraising. If that, then “Things My Son Needs to Know About the World” is your book. If you want a novel, though, alas — leave it.

The Bookworm Sez:
“Things My Son Needs to Know About the World” by Fredrik Backman
c.2019, Atria
$24.00 / higher in Canada
193 pages

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