A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Cranky and bitter perfectly describe Ove. Maybe even old and stodgy as well.

He’s a hard worker who knows how to get things done. But he’s been forced out of his job and pushed around by those who have more than he does. He’s lost control of the neighborhood council. He does his morning rounds of the street to look for mischief and rulebreakers. After all, there’s a right way to do things and a wrong way, and Ove won’t let his neighborhood fall in the wrong way.

He’s lived a rough life with plenty of bad luck and has now found himself alone after his wife’s untimely death.

He wants his life to end, because without his wife or his work, what’s the point in living anymore?

“People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had.”

Then a young family moves onto the street and his suicide plans keep getting interrupted. How can one properly hang himself if the bone-headed neighbor backs the moving trailer over his mailbox? How can he shoot himself if the kid from the cafe comes knocking on his door to ask for help fixing his girlfriend’s bike? Who will feed the cat that has taken up residence in his home?

There are too many things left undone and unsaid. Too many people that need help that only Ove can provide.

Ove must learn to live with the new faces in his life and come to terms that his old life is gone, but that doesn’t mean his life is over.

Fredrik Backman is a genius when it comes to intertwining comedy, grief, and love.

You know that quote about how if you want to be a good writer, you don’t write about ‘man‘ you write about ‘a man‘? That’s exactly what Backman has done again with this novel. He pieces apart the essence of what it means to be a human and applies it to a lovable, yet cranky old man.

He dives deep into humanity and our need to be loved. He uncovers what it means to have a family, no matter how untraditional.

I was so connected to this book and to the characters, even though they were a bit cartoonish in their mannerism. He really played up their character traits to make them larger than life. Like he really needed you to remember their key traits: cranky and old, or pregnant and chatty, or mean lady with the yappy dog. You get it.

My favorite part was the classic way Backman makes you innocently believe one thing about his characters and then tricks you into being wrong. He makes you want to make assumptions based on a few facts. Then he juts to the left and lays it out in a totally new view. It forced me to rethink my perceptions of people. Don’t judge a book by its cover and don’t judge a book by its characters.

I had mixed feelings about Ove as a character. He’s obviously meant to be a somewhat unlikeable, cranky, old man, but he did have some moments that I thought were really rude. He could be plain mean to his neighbors. Even as he grew as a character, he didn’t quite shake his tendency to be dismissive. He was never really cruel, but definitely not nice. I can’t say if I would have befriended him if he was my neighbor.

“Ove feels an instinctive skepticism towards all people taller than six feet; the blood can’t quite make it all the way up to the brain.”

There is some character growth, but I think I’ll go with– love to hate him. He’s likable in his stubborn attitude to stick to his morals.

I’ve fallen in love with Fredrik Backman’s writing and A Man Called Ove is no exception. It’s a wonderful book!

Also, there is a film adaptation available in Sweden (Backman’s home country) and Tom Hanks is staring in the US film adaptation coming (hopefully) in January 2023. Can’t wait to see it!

Don’t forget to check out my reviews of Fredrik Backman’s other books:

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