Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Ove has rules. Because life has rules. At least it should. And people should follow them for God’s sake.

A few years ago I was visiting a cousin in Sweden and we got on the subject of books by Swedish authors. I had just finished The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and was telling her how much I’d enjoyed it. She said I should definitely read Fredrik Backman then. I made a mental note to add him to my lengthy list of authors I want to read. Now having just finished A Man Called Ove, I wish I’d taken her recommendation straight away and am looking forward to reading all of Backman’s other books that have been translated into English.

Ove is a 59 year old widower who’s just been forcedly retired. Might as well join the wife. He methodically sets about committing suicide. But the pesky new neighbors keep getting in the way. They need this help or that help and their kids keep treating him as if he were their grandpa for heaven’s sake. No one knows how to do anything anymore. What has the neighborhood come to.

So bit by bit Ove is entangled in the affairs of all his neighbors. Teaching one to drive. Taking another to the hospital. Adopting a homeless cat. Preventing the state from putting an Alzheimer patient away despite his wife’s wish for him to stay home. Easing the tension between a father and the son who he has kicked out of his home. Ove knows how to do things.

Of course he complains and mutters under his breath every step of the way. Hilariously so.  Ove is an over the top curmudgeon who will have you laughing out loud.

In between are chapters that take you back to when Ove was kid. His parents die when he’s still a boy. He loses the family home. He loses his job. Nothing seems to be going the way it should. Until he meets Sonja. The woman who becomes his wife and his light. Tragedy strikes again and again, but she never sees it that way and remains his light. Now if you didn’t already love Ove despite all his grumbling, these chapters would melt your heart and you would come to.

One of my dad’s favorite movies is Grumpy Old Men so halfway through the book I said to my dad, oh I wish you were a reader! Ove is so much like you that I know you’d enjoy this book. In outwardly Ove fashion he pointed out that he wasn’t a novel reader, but he read multiple newspapers. Every day. Every article. Point taken. Sorry dad. My younger brother’s a novel reader and he’s just as lovingly grumpy as my dad and Ove. Maybe I’ll tell him to read the book.

Men like Ove are rare gems. It’s nice to see them get the nod they deserve. They’d probably harrumph that, but it is. Thank you Backman.

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