I remember when A Man Called Ove first took the book world by storm as a book in translation that everyone should read. Judging from the cover and synopsis, it didn’t at all seem like it would interest me. I’m not normally a lover of contemporary slice-of-life fiction. Give me dragons and magical libraries and quests to save the world from imminent doom any day of the week. As with everything, there have been notable exceptions, but A Man Called Ove didn’t strike me as a contender for that role. I can’t believe how wrong I was. This is a book that I loved so fervently that I honestly don’t have much to say about it. My words won’t be able to do it justice.
“Men are what they are because of what they do. Not what they say.”
Ove is the very definition of a curmudgeon. He’s been forced into an early retirement and now he just wants to be left alone to die. But life keeps getting in the way as new neighbors move in next door and old neighbors suddenly become a larger presence in the area. It seems like the neighborhood just can’t function without him. He begrudgingly starts addressing the problems plaguing those around him, engaging with life for the first time in a long time. Against his will and better judgement, he finds himself becoming part of a motley family.
“You only need one ray of light to chase all the shadows away.”
I loved how slowly Backman fed us Ove’s backstory. We weren’t immediately told everything we needed to know about him, and it was delightful to gain insight into his character and understanding of his worldview as such a meandering pace. I also was completely blown away by Backman’s characterization across the cast of neighbors. Each and every included character was vibrant and tangibly real, and were incredibly varied from one another. Ove’s internal monologue was likewise brilliant, and while I know there’s already a foreign film incarnation in existence and an American version in the works, I just don’t see how a screen interpretation could ever work as well as the novel, because that internal monologue is so important to Ove’s character. I’ll be interested to compare the story across the two disparate mediums. Even more, I can’t wait to get my hands on every single Fredrik Backman book that has been translated into English. I think I found a new author to add to my favorites shelf.
“We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.”
A Man Called Ove is one of the most charming, delightful, funny, poignant books I’ve every read. I laughed more times than I can count, but that laughter almost always had to find its way around the lump in my throat, because tears threatened to hit the pages almost as often. This book moved me more than I can express. I could barely read the last chapter through the haze of unshed tears, which finally spilled as I read the final words. It was a perfect story, and there’s not a single thing I could change about it.
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