Book Reviews

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

18774964[1]“In this bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Sweden, 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 is a curmudgeon and 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.

A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful and charming exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others.” ~Goodreads

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A Man Called Ove (July 15, 2014) is quite the charming debut novel. Ove is fifty-nine but acts more like he is in his eighties and “grumpy”, “curmudgeon”, “unfriendly”, “bitter”, “anti-social” are just some of the adjectives to describe his frosty exterior. The opening scene of him trying to buy an ipad is hilarious as it is fitting for how an older person would act who has never embraced change. He reminds me of someone I know or someone I have met. I don’t know exactly who, but that type of person who is perfectly happy with living a very simple and regimented life. But for all the things Ove was criticized for, his wife Sonja simply felt he “was a man caught in the wrong time.”

Sonja. When his wife enters the story and the reader is treated to bits of their life together, the story really picks up. For me at least. Ove is described as “black and white” and Sonja, “color”. I can’t remember a pairing of opposites that I have loved reading about more. They simply balanced one another out and every insight that Sonja had about Ove and life was highlighted in my copy. I can see why he gravitated toward her. He was dark and she the light. What an absolutely beautiful life story between the two of them. I didn’t want those flashbacks to ever end. And yes, I said life story because it wasn’t some mushy love story. Backman gave them more depth than simply romance.

Ove is also surrounded by many quirky characters who need Ove as much as he doesn’t want to be needed. Ove has a very precise plan for his future and they are getting in the way of him following through. I don’t want to go into much detail, not because there are big twists, but because it’s a story that just needs to unfold page by page. The entire story is a journey that the reader takes with Ove.

Backman packs a lot into this simple, little story that reminded me at times of Carl Fredricksen from the movie UP. If that movie hit a sentimental nerve, as it did for me, then you will really enjoy this one too.

*Thank you to Atria, Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for the advanced egalley copy. I was not compensated or required to post a review.

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