I am dedicating my review of A MAN CALLED OVE, by Fredrik Backman,to Victoria Roth. Victoria slapped this book in my hands, looked me square in both eyes, and told me I had to read it, knowing that I have stacks of books needing to be read. I am so happy I listened to her. She was so right!
This book could have been titled THE BIG-HEARTED MAN, or..THE MAN WHO LOVED TOO MUCH, however, Backman chose the generic A MAN CALLED OVE, which suits the story. A MAN CALLED OVE is translated from the Swedish. It takes place mainly in Sweden. And Fredrik Backman is in his early 30’s; so young to write with such insight.
I can’t think of any book I’ve ever read that kept me laughing out loud throughout the entire book. And was well-written. Ove became a man I wanted to know more about. I needed to know what made him tick. Backman presents Ove as a curmudgeonly old man who stays to himself and has no need for other humans. That’s at the start of the story, of course. Watching as Backman transforms OVE into the man we suspected was hiding inside, is a thing of wonder and beauty, and laugh out loud humor.
There is a scene where Ove’s new neighbors are moving in across the street. The pregnant wife is standing behind the vehicle as the husband attempts to back the trailer up. As the trailer backs right over Ove’s mailbox, he can’t contain himself and races out the front door yelling contemptable epitaphs.
You’ll find yourself laughing out loud from the first page where Ove is buying a computer. He’s at the Apple store. Then there’s chapter two where Ove meets the “cat” for the first time. And on and on.
We discover that Ove lost his wife, recently. And his job to downsizing. He’s at lose ends. Still, he makes all his daily rounds to make sure that everything in his neighborhood is just so. And we see that his best friend and arch enemy is descending into dementia.
I work in retail and sometimes deal with unfriendly or downright mean people. Recently, I figured something out. Whenever I encounter a person who seems to be unsociable I remind myself that I do not know what is going on in this person’s home-life. I take a deep breath and smile. Usually, it works. Ove brings this to mind.
I especially love the relationship Ove has with the cat. He calls the cat “Cat Annoyance.” This bedraggled cat has been foisted on him by his neighbor, The Pregnant Woman.
Now, when it’s gone quarter to six and Ove has got up, the cat is sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor. It sports a disgruntled expression, as if Ove owes it money. Ove stares back at it with a suspicion normally reserved for a cat that has run his doorbell with a Bible in its paws, like a Jehovah’s Witness.
“I suspect you’re expecting food,” mutters Ove at last. The cat doesn’t answer. “But in this house you don’t just lounge about like some kind of consultant and expect fried sparrows to fly into your mouth.”
Fredrik Backman lives in Sweden. He is a blogger and a columnist. And he’s very funny. A MAN CALLED OVE is his first novel, and it’s already sold more than 500,000 copies in its native country and will be published in more than twenty-five languages all over the world.
The Pregnant Woman (that’s what he calls her) is my favorite of the neighbors. Her husband is the Lanky One. Then there’s Rune, the best friend, and his wife Anita who is struggling to care for her quickly deteriorating husband, at home, by herself. And the young guy who lives next door. All sorts of characters are involved in creating this amazing story. And they’re just everyday people.
This story is about the many tiny ways one person can touch so many lives. It reminds us that we can only begin to heal the pain of great loss by allowing others to get close again.
And by the way, Ove is pronounced OOH-vuh.
This is the book for you if you loved THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY and MAJOR PETTIGREW’S LAST STAND. It’s a charming reflection on loss and love and life.
I received a finished hardcopy of A MAN CALLED OVE from Atria Books. They’ve got a real winner here.