By the Book @ Rogers Memorial Library

A Man Called Ove, by Frederik Backman

“Ove understood things he could see and touch.  Wood and concrete. Glass and steel.  Tools.  Things one could figure out.  He understood right angles and clear instruction manuals. Assembly models and drawings. Things one could draw on paper.

He was a man of black and white.

And she was color.  All the color he had.”

Each day Ove wakes up at the same time to make his rounds in the community.  It’s important to check that the neighbors are following the recycling rules, that no one has tried to commit any crimes and that his neighborhood remains free of graffiti and trash.  He glares at those who try to interact with him, cutting them off as he goes about his business.

The curmudgeonly main character of A Man Called Ove is an unpleasant old man, too intent on following the rules to care about other people.  Others call him bitter, but he does not understand why he must walk around with a smile on his face all the time like a fool.

Yet as the story unfolds, readers come to know a very different man.  Ove privately nurses a secret loss and actually has a bit of a soft heart.   When new neighbors move in and run over his mailbox, Ove becomes annoyed.  He just wants to get on with the end of his life.  But soon he’s involved with the heavily pregnant Parvaneh, her hapless husband Patrick, and their two daughters.   Then his life is further invaded by an overweight neighbor, the wife of his ex-best friend, a mailman named Adrian and a stray cat he has dubbed the “Cat Annoyance.”

As Ove’s life fills up with unwanted people and their needs, Backman reveals the curmudgeon’s life story.  The roots of the man’s strong moral character come from being brought up to work past his pain and to do everything for himself.  Readers witness Ove’s careful courtship of the young woman who will be his wife.  He may be painfully blunt at times, but he is not without kindness.  Ove knows what is right and what is good and cannot be shaken from his beliefs.  He marks the end of one  friendship based on that man’s purchase of a BMW — everyone knows that Saabs are the only car a sensible person should have.

The neighbors and friends that slowly infiltrate Ove’s life are flawed and funny.  Parvenah exhibits a brisk persistence in the face of Ove’s constant rejection.  Anita, his arch rival’s wife, deals with her husband’s dementia with a mixture of practicality and denial.   The Cat Annoyance slowly becomes a pet (and Ove’s animal döppleganger) with its insistence on routine and persnickety personality.

A love story lies at the core of A Man Called Ove.  Ove and Sonja, the most unlikely couple, faced great joy and crippling heartbreak.  Her death took the joy and color from his life and turned him into a sad and bitter man.  He tries to live the way she would want him to, but all Ove wants is to be with Sonja once again.  He slowly learns to find satisfaction in interacting with and helping other people.  Reflecting on his new found connection to life, Ove thinks, “One finds a way of living for the sake of someone else’s future.  And it wasn’t as if Ove also died when Sonja left him.  He just stopped living.”

This book will bring you to laughter and to tears.  Though it’s translated from Swedish, A Man Called Ove is a universal story.  Fans of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand or The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry will find themselves drawn to the world of Ove and his neighbors.


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