When I picked up A Man Called Ove, I was anticipating a story about a grumpy old man, what I wasn’t anticipating were the tears of happiness when I finished…
Author: Fredrik Backman
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Version: Audiobook (9h 9min listening length)
Narrator: George Newbern
Publisher: Dreamscape Media, LLC
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’s a curmudgeon, 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.
When my book club selected A Man Called Ove for our September book selection, I was thrilled! I had heard good things about this book, and was excited to see what the fuss was about. First off, lets talk about the elephant in the room. How the heck do you pronounce “Ove”? Well it is actually pronounced “OO (as in too)-Vuh.” Don’t believe me? Here is a video on how to pronounce it → How to pronounce “Ove”. It’s Swedish. This threw me for a loop when I first heard the name said on the audiobook…Not going to lie, I’m still scratching my head about it.
Enter Ove, a seemingly grumpy old man with strict values and a distrust of everyone and everything. When we first meet Ove, he is having a hard time adjusting to his new life. Ove is not only mourning the loss of his wife, Sonja, but has now been forced into an early retirement. Ove is the type of no-nonsense man who thrives on schedules, discipline, and hard work. Now that Ove has been rendered obsolete, he no longer feels he has a purpose in life.
Alternating between the present and the past, Backman only gives us glimpses into who Ove really is, thus we get to know Ove gradually over time. At first, you may think that Ove is just stringent, however as you learn more and more about Ove, you may find your opinion of him soften. A key theme in A Man Called Ove is not to judge a person before you know their story. I’ll be the first to admit that I thought Ove was just a grumpy old man with a stick up his bum, but as we learn more about Ove’s back story, things all become clear.
The cast of eccentric characters are what make this book so great. Just to name a few: Parvaneh – the pregnant foreign woman, Patrick – Parvaneh’s clumsy husband, Rune – Ove’s best friend and arch enemy, Jimmy – the overweight neighbor, Adrian – the young man saving up for his first car, Mirsad – the gay barista, and let’s not forget the stray cat who worms its way into Ove’s heart. They all come together to make an unlikely family.
I particularly adored the love story between Ove and his wife, Sonja. People didn’t understand their relationship, and even questioned Sonja why she was with Ove, but it really is true what they say: opposites attract. I think my favorite part of their relationship was that it was so quietly beautiful and understated. Ove wasn’t the type of man to display public affection, but rather, the type of man to show his love through more practical ways.
“Men are what they are because of what they do. Not what they say.”
“One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead.”
“But if anyone had asked, he would have told them that he never lived before he met her. And not after either.”
“Because you are not a complete twit.”
About the Author:
Fredrik Backman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here. All three books were number-one bestsellers in his native Sweden and are being published in more than twenty-five languages.
He lives in Stockholm with his wife and two children.