This novel is quirky and fun and about people who are slightly exaggerated (but still believable). The story is funny and lighthearted while still managing to be sad enough to make me cry. (Is it reductionist to say it reminds me of Swedish films in that way?)
The novel centers on the relationship between almost-8-year-old Elsa and her Granny, a loud-living former doctor with a wild past. Granny and Elsa share a secret language and a wealth of made-up fairy tales about the Land-of-Almost-Awake, which, she learns, are all based on the real stories of the people who live in their apartment building.
As Elsa delivers letters to the people in the apartment, in which her Granny apologizes for transgressions, she learns more and more about the backgrounds of the people there. She also learns more about a real-life danger that is threatening the residents in general and her in particular.
What I liked about this novel was that it was different enough to make me feel like I was learning about how other people viewed the world, and yet familiar enough that I felt connected with the characters. The novel has elements of magical realism, for example, is the wurse a dog or not? Do they really go to the Land-of-Almost-Awake or do they just tell stories? Does Granny have a real secret language, or is it just like pig latin? I also liked how most of the people, even the ones who seem insufferable, are presented with enough of a good side that you like or at least start to sympathize with them.