When A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman showed up on a bunch of book bloggers’ favorites of 2014, I had happened to have brought it home on the recommendation of a library borrower who had brought it back and said how much she liked it, although it wasn’t her usual kind of book.
I read the whole book hearing “Ove” as rhyming with “love”, because that’s what the reader who recommended it so highly told me, but apparently this Nordic name is pronounced “Oo-veh.” That’s the only thing she misled me about, though, because this novel charmed me, just as it did her. Author Fredrik Backman, a blogger and humor columnist in his early thirties, has written a story of a grieving widower named Ove forced into early retirement – at a loss for what he’s supposed to do with his days now that his wife is gone. An international bestseller translated from the Swedish written with dry humor, A Man Called Ove made me laugh and cry and see the good in Ove, despite his uncanny ability to irritate people.
At loose ends, angry at the incompetence of his neighbors, and nothing to do except patrol the block to see who’s ignoring the parking restrictions or breaking the rule of no driving in the residential district, Ove – the most un-self-reflective person in his small town and probably in all of Sweden – is angry at the world. Especially at the people who go on blithely living in it. Who were always extremely annoying at the best of times. Without the love and stabilizing presence of his wife Sonja, Ove has had enough of life.
According to this Chatelaine Magazine article, Ove originally appeared as a popular character on the author’s blog. Ove reminded me an older, grieving, curmudgeonly, working-class version of Don Tillman from The Rosie Project, whose Asperger’s syndrome may have been undiagnosed but was perfectly clear to his friends and colleagues.
The author’s literary agency describes A Man Called Ove – the author’s first novel – as “a feel-good story in the spirit of The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, and the film As Good As It Gets with Jack Nicholson.” Simon & Schuster describe it as “a feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. It would make a great book club selection, but isn’t out in large print or audio CD yet for libraries to purchase.
A Man Called Ove
Disclosure: Borrowed from the public library
Other opinions on A Man Called Ove (all excellent):
Bibliophile by the Sea