A Man Called Ove is a spectacular novel. It comes from a Swedish author named Fredrik Backman. It is effortlessly brilliant. It’s at once hilarious, wise, and heartbreaking.
The man called Ove is a grumpy curmudgeon who detests the changes that come with so-called modernization and progress. He’s a hard worker who doesn’t much care for art or books or technology. But give him a hammer and a 2×4 and he can build you a house, by God, and every man who’s worth a damn should be able to accomplish the same! As the novel progresses, we see alternating sections that delve into Ove’s present and Ove’s past. Each chapter begins with either “the man called Ove” or “the man who was Ove.” I found this to be a brilliant device that easily allowed me to transition between the present narrative and the flashbacks. This is a slowly developing novel that perfectly develops the character of Ove at just the right pace. We get little tidbits of information at a time, allowing us to come to know Ove as we do a person who winds up becoming a close friend. At first we keep them at arm’s length, only knowing those aspects of their person that exist on the surface. As time passes we peel away the layers to find depth and beauty that most people will never see.
The most important thing to know about Ove is that it’s time for him to die. He had two things to live for – his job and the love of his life. His love for his wife is described beautifully in the book. Ove is a man who sees the world in black and white, but his wife, Sonja, was pure color. She was the only color he needed in life. I am paraphrasing, here, as I don’t remember the exact quote, but the language was as beautiful as the sentiment. His two purposes in life are gone, and Ove wants nothing more than to reunite with his beloved Sonja, so he will be going to join her. This novel somewhat comically depicts how his plans to off himself are continually thwarted by dimwitted neighbors, a mangy stray cat, and a host of other rather quirky characters. I laughed out loud numerous times while reading this book (I recommend the listen, because the narrator, George Newbern, is superb) and I also did quite a bit of weeping. I’m sure it’s a strange sight to see the driver in the car next to you dissolving into a puddle of tears. I apologize to any individuals who may now be worried about the emotional stability of a stranger, and I assure you from afar that I am fine. In fact, I am a much richer person for having grown to know Ove. I don’t want to discuss this book in too much detail for fear of spoiling it for prospective readers, so I’ll stop here. In closing, I will just say that this book needs to be read, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
5 Emphatic stars!!!