A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman fulfilled the “Book Set in Scandinavia” category of the PopSugar 2019 Reading Challenge. The novel is set in Sweden and is one of the best books I’ve read this year.
Ove (pronounced Ah-vey) is a grumpy old man. He polices his little neighborhood, checking to make sure everyone is following the rules. His personality is crusty and abrasive, but that does not stop his new neighbor Parvaneh from befriending him. He wants nothing to do with her, his old rival, or anyone, not even the stray cat that wanders the housing development.
The story is the feel-good novel that everyone needs immediately. I’m going to super-spoil. So stop reading the blog and go devour this book.
Ove is a lonely man. He’s had a hard life, and it shows in his mannerisms and personality. But it’s also who he is. He wants to help people, but he turns it into a huge obligation. That’s the essence of the entire story. Ove needs someone to need him. To give him a purpose in life now that his beloved wife as passed and his workplace has retired him. He needs a reason to live, and thankfully, his neighbors realize it.
There aren’t any huge, heartfelt moments where any of the characters spill their emotions, but you’ll feel deeply when you read this novel. (Notice I didn’t say if.) The relationship between Parvaneh’s family and Ove, his frenemy neighbor and his wife, the younger people he meets from the shop, and the bike stand, and that mangy cat he totally bonds with. All the connections to these people give him meaning, purpose, even if he grumbles about it. Not to mention, the others receive so much back from Ove.
The story pulls at your heart. I cried aloud twice when reading the novel. I loved Ove’s journey back to life, back to humanity, and back to family. He found a real home in his little neighborhood, even without his wife. He loved and was loved. Something we all hope for that in our later years. We want to still be able to connect to those around us and find meaning, even if it’s just checking the parked cars in the back lot.
I have only one small criticism of the entire book. At the start, Ove was 59 years old. Even with all the hardships and struggles of his life, I couldn’t see a
man his age that grumbly and crusty. If the author had added ten years, I would have bought the story hook, line, and sinker.
I loved this book with my whole heart.
I give A Man Called Ove 5 Saabs.