A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman
Ove hasn’t found anything to smile about lately. What was once a very regimented man, is now an even more terrifying old man to encounter. He lives by his own strict rules and there’s no swaying him into any grey area. Needless to say, he doesn’t do well with changes, either.
One day, when a family of mixed race moved in beside him, his life was turned upside down. He thinks the husband an incompetent idiot, the kids bothersome, and the woman (of Iraqui descent), a pest. Their chaotic life couldn’t be more different from Ove’s disciplined existence.
Ove is a man of a few words. He doesn’t waste them on perfunctory dialogues – not even carefully thought out ones. He’d rather the world leave him alone so he can live out his days in peace. In truth, he’s just biding his time until he can see his Sonja again. But the entire universe will conspire against him. What follows is a series of event that will give him a reason to stay, a reason to live, and a reason to love again.
What is it about Swedish-translated novels that make me feel all the warm and fuzzies? Ove is the perfect example of a hard man to like but the characters and events of the story somehow soften him to the eyes of the readers. I think it’s because everyone around him forces him to deviate from his normal self. They give him layers that no one knew existed, not even his dead wife or himself. The world sees him as an angry, old coot but deep inside, his upbringing remains the thing that will always make him human. His mom died when he was just a boy but his father made sure he grew up to be a conscientious, kind-hearted man. It also helps that he held his father to the highest esteem so he emulated him all his life. This was better exemplified when on their vacation in Spain, and even though there was a language barrier, he helped the townspeople to the best of his abilities. He went around fixing things and making sure their problems disappear.
If you’ve seen the video for this novel-turned-to-film, you would know that ever since his wife died, he hasn’t found a reason to live. So everyday since making a decision to follow Sonja, he’s been trying to kill himself. Of course, all his attempts end up in the most comical way possible which makes this book sad and funny at the same time. All around him people and circumstances did their best, though, unconsciously, from doing what he’s set out to do. Until he finally admitted defeat by telling his wife that “killing oneself isn’t easy.” At the end of the day, Ove’s big heart was the thing that will give him what he’s been asking for.