A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
eBook review copy; 352 pages
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman is a very highly recommended
heart-warming and heart-breaking novel that I sobbed while reading, yet
adored every word. Ove is a curmudgeon with a plan that the darn people
in his neighborhood keep interrupting.
Ove, 59, has just been informed that he is being forced into retirement
"'Won’t it be nice to slow down a bit?' they said to Ove yesterday at
work. While explaining that there was a lack of employment prospects and
so they were 'retiring the older generation'. A third of a century in
the same workplace, and that’s how they refer to Ove. Suddenly he’s a
bloody 'generation'. Because nowadays people are all thirty-one and wear
too-tight trousers and no longer drink normal coffee."
As he has done for almost four decades, Ove is continuing to make coffee
the right way, and go on his daily early morning inspections of the
neighborhood at 5:50 AM to make sure everything is in order and the
rules are being followed. After all, the rules are there for a reason
and there is no reason to stay in bed all day and not follow them. Ove
won't have to worry about this much longer because he has a plan.
As he is getting out his box of useful stuff to make preparations, he
looks out his window: "The poser is jogging. Not that Ove is provoked by
jogging. Not at all.
Ove couldn’t give a damn about people jogging. What he can’t understand
is why they have to make such a big thing of it. With those smug smiles
on their faces, as if they were out there curing pulmonary emphysema.
Either they walk fast or they run slowly, that’s what joggers do. It’s a
forty-year-old man’s way of telling the world that he can’t do anything
right. Is it really necessary to dress up as a fourteen-year-old
Romanian gymnast in order to be able to do it? Or the Olympic
tobogganing team? Just because one shuffles aimlessly round the block
for three quarters of an hour?"
Well, none of this will matter soon. And then the new neighbors scrap
the side of his house, stop in his flowerbed, and knock down his mailbox
while trying to back a trailer into their driveway when it is clearly
marked that motor vehicles are not allowed in the area. Ove doesn't know
what he's getting into when he meets the couple, Parvaneh and Patrick,
and their two daughters. What he does know is that he misses his beloved
wife, Sonia, and is ready to go meet her. "People said Ove saw the
world in black and white. But she was colour. All the colour he had."
But all his careful plans keep getting interrupted by one neighborhood
crisis after another.
I love this book. It is poignant and sad, yet hilariously funny.
Chapters alternate between the past and the present as the background
and true character of Ove is slowly revealed. Backman has a simple
writing style that grants his work a fable-like quality. He cleverly
captures the contrast of Ove's few words and his actions, and slowly
reveals Ove's past. The pacing is perfect. In the end, there are good
feelings and hugs
and chocolate all around, even for those who seem to be unlovable,
because sometimes you have to look beyond a person's words to see their
heart. It is
how one person can make a difference. It encourages us to overlook a
person's flaws and accept them as they are. You will feel Ove's
pain and sadness, but also you will be sending him warm wishes and good
thoughts. Even though there are parts that are heartbreaking, it
is, at its core, an uplifting, hopeful book.
(Two drawbacks: I couldn't take this book along to read at work on
breaks because I could be reduced to a sobbing mess at any moment, and,
come-on, 59 is not that old.)
My digital reading copy was courtesy
of the publisher.
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