I am excited to share my review of A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman tonight. I have seen this book on several blogs and book lists lately. After finally reading the premise, I checked it out at my local library. And I was pleasantly surprised by it.
I did not expect this story. I’m not sure what my expectations were beyond a story about an older man named Ove. But I was surprised how a story about a man who is done living (so much so that he is trying to find ways to end his life at first) can give readers so much hope and reasons to keep trying. Life is unexpected sometimes and ordinary moments can change us in extraordinary ways, if we let them.
- I don’t usually read a lot of contemporary fiction. But this book makes me want to read more. It is endearing, laugh out loud funny, and heartbreaking all at once.
- I am sure I’m pronouncing Ove wrong in my head. My husband served a mission for our church in Norway so he has a background in how to pronounce Scandinavian names. I keep having to ask him how to say it.
- The writing and descriptions in this novel are simple yet realistic. Backman is describing real people with real problems who are just doing the best they can. That makes this story and these characters feel so real and easy to relate to.
According to Goodreads: “A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door. Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.”
“Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it’s often one of the great motivations for the living. . . . For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.”
“All people at root are time optimists. We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if’.”
“People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had.”
A Man Called Ove
I can’t help but love Ove. I think I was cheering for him from the first page. There is just something about Ove that makes him so wonderfully endearing and horribly ridiculous. I smile whenever I think about the protagonist of this novel about finding joy in unlikely places and friendship where you least expect it. He makes me laugh out loud and was so real. I love his nicknames for everyone on the street including the cat and how he can’t seem to get what he wants. He seems to be a grumpy, stingy widow who is just upset about his wife dying before him. But as we learn his story, he is so much more than that.
His neighbors are almost as equally ridiculous and endearing as Ove. These people feel like people you could actually meet on the street or in your neighborhood. They are flawed and make plenty of mistakes. They argue, their relationships ebb and flow, but they are friends underneath their surface squabbles. I love how feisty and loyal Parvaneh is; her driving lessons with Ove are awesome! I enjoyed piecing together the background of Ove and Rune–especially how it all comes together at the end. I loved Parvaneh’s girls and their sweet relationships with Ove–even though he resists it so strongly for a while. The interactions Ove has with people who annoy him like Jimmy or Adrian and his friend are hilarious. Ove tells people just what he thinks and that is refreshing and surprising. Each of these people touch Ove’s life in some way. And it makes me reflect on the people in my life that have influenced me in both small and great ways.
I enjoyed the double time periods the story is told in and how we get pieces of Ove and his story as the book progresses. This is one of those novels that you don’t know all the pieces of the story until the end. The details are given to you slowly, one by one. That style just makes Ove more endearing for me. As we get more details about his growing up years, his relationship with his father, and his strong work ethic, I came to admire Ove more and more. My favorite story line was definitely how Ove fell in love with his wife Sonja, and their beautiful relationship over their marriage. They weren’t perfect people, and they had plenty of trials in life. But they never stopped loving each other or fighting for each other. That is a truly beautiful marriage. Some of the present day stories felt a bit rushed and unnecessary. But I enjoyed the way so many people find their ways into Ove’s life and heart.
The ending is one of the most satisfying I have read recently. I seem to have high expectations for endings and am disappointed if the story gets too big or has too big of a twist right before the last page. This book isn’t like that. It gives readers a glimpse into the lives of all the characters at the end. And it doesn’t feel over the top. It’s both what I expected and not what I expected. It all comes together so well, and I love the last word.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It wasn’t in my usual genre but it was I hope to read more from Backman! I enjoyed his storytelling, descriptions, and humor. Highly recommend!
What are some of your favorite contemporary fiction novels?
Have you read Ove yet? What did you think?