The first book I read this year was My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry: A Novel by Swedish author, Fredrik Backman. It was a captivating book that left me wanting more so I quickly put Backman’s first book, A Man Called Ove, on hold at the library. I have been listening to the book during my commutes or when doing kitchen tasks and, as I neared the end, I began to wish it would never end.
Ove is a curmudgeon. He has a strict routine that he follows every day. There is also a certain way to do things: the right way. He is most definitely the man in the neighborhood who would shake his fist at you if you stepped on his lawn. He can come across as mean, judgmental, and intolerant. But Ove wasn’t always like that and, even now, he’s not completely like that.
A family moves in next door to Ove and the first thing that happens is that Ove’s mailbox is toppled over because Patrick, the new neighbor, can’t back a trailer. How can a grown man not know how to back in a trailer? Ove fumes. Patrick’s wife, Parveneh, also doesn’t understand. And so it begins. Ove’s life starts to be invaded by Parveneh and Patrick and their two daughters and then by other people in the neighborhood. Ove’s isolation is whittled away.
A Man Called Ove moves between the present and past seamlessly. The scenes dealing with the past are written with finesse and show how Ove has been shaped into his present form.
This book seems irreverent in some ways because Ove comes across as irreverent, but Ove also possesses a deep understanding and sympathy that arises frequently, startling even himself, perhaps.
Reading A Man Called Ove is like peeling an onion. There is layer after layer after layer after layer until you come to its heart. This heart is big. It is also funny and philosophical and bittersweet and enveloping. It is the best friend with whom you have shared life’s tragedies, joys, secrets, and capers.
“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’.”
I found myself laughing at many of the incidents and then as the end neared, crying. For me, that is a sign of a great book if it can take you from either end of the spectrum and still be true to itself. I would love to find more words to say so that I can carrying on gushing about this beautiful book, but perhaps we’ll just leave it with this: I highly recommend this book.
From Amazon: A Man Called Ove: A Novel
Rating: (5 out of 5 butterflies)