Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove is in a word: lovely. When I was first introduced to Ove, his crankiness and rudeness towards his neighbors made me question my ability to even like Ove by the end of the book. And, I didn’t like Ove … I loved him. Through the glimpses into Ove’s past and the relationships he forms with his neighbors, the author made me want to insert myself into a curmudgeon’s life and see beyond the rough exterior.
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Like Swarm Theory by Christine Rice (review here; Rice interview here), A Man Called Ove opens one’s eyes to the complexity of the human experience, and like his neighbor Parveneh does with Ove, it makes one want to extend a hand to and open one’s heart to the curmudgeons in life. Or, in other words, Parveneh made me want to be a better person. She simply had an open heart to everyone and did not let Ove’s roughness push her away, and because of her efforts, she gained a wonderful neighbor, friend and grand-dad to her children and made Ove want to live again.
I loved the different array of characters in the book, including the mangy cat that Ove reluctantly takes in. The author gives you first impressions of all the characters, often affected by Ove’s grumpiness and criticisms, but as the story develops and so does Ove, you are allowed to see more and more into who they are and the beauty in all of them. I loved the relationship between Ove and the cat. Abused by a small dog, the poor thing is neglected and sickly. Ove at first tries to drive it away, but is compelled to stand up for it when the much hated small dog and its owner try to hurt it. Ove is very slow and reluctant to admit his care for the cat as anything other than doing what he thought his late wife would want him to do, but in the end, the cat becomes a perfect companion to Ove.
There is a lot of love in A Man Called Ove. Ove’s love and memories of his wife always made me tear up. I especially loved how he said “Ove was all black and white, She was all color. All the color he had.” Such a steady, quiet but deep love is expressed in such simple terms in this book. In the beginning of the book, you think Ove’s wife is just silent or merely annoyed with Ove, but you soon find that his wife has died and Ove is talking with her as if she is still there.
Backman did such a beautiful job of showing the reader Ove’s past bit by bit and what made him the way he is and despite his crankiness, the deep amount of love and loyalty he can feel for people. I think the choice of revealing Ove’s past bit by bit was smart. Like in real life as we are getting to know someone, we get to know Ove slowly, and slowly, Ove starts making sense and the reader starts caring for him.
The reader also sees Ove’s displeasure and rejection of any changes or modernity. I think progression reminds Ove that time goes on and Ove does not want to leave his wife or what is known behind. When Ove starts accepting new people in his life, he starts accepting world changes, as well. The reader also sees the love that forms between Ove and the young family that moves in next to him and his former friend with dementia. So many different types of attachments and love, but the reader feels the strength of that love that Ove feels for them, even if it is reluctantly.
I would recommend A Man Called Ove to anyone. I find myself thinking about the story, about Ove, and about the array of characters often, and each time vow that I am going to open myself up to more people and give my time and attention more freely to people, because life is richer and more colorful with people to share it with.
Read more about Fredrik Backman at Simon and Schuster.
Read about the movie adaptation of A Man Called Ove here.
More Books by Fredrik Backman: