Fredrik Backman has been on my radar since before I started this blog. I’ve had two of his books – A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry – for at least a year, and hadn’t gotten around to them yet. This month, I finally decided to fix that, and turned to the audiobook of A Man Called Ove. And yes, I regret not reading it sooner.
(From Goodreads) A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.
Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?
Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.
A Man Called Ove is one of those books that starts off slow, and then gradually draws you in. I enjoyed the first few chapters, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to get into this book. And then, before I knew it was happening, I fell in love with it.
The characters are easily the best part of this book. While there are a lot of plot elements, this is a very character-driven book, and I really enjoyed that. Obviously Ove (pronounced Ooh-va) is the main character. He’s a grumpy old man who complains about pretty much everything. Over the course of the novel, we find out why he is the way he is, and by the time the ending rolled around, I loved him. In a grandpa sort of way. Each character is very distinct and dimensional, which made for an exciting reading experience.
I was also a bit (pleasantly) surprised to see so much diversity in this book. Parvaneh, who is basically the second main character, is Iraninan. I loved the cultural references (she makes Ove chicken and rice with saffron, which he begrudgingly eats), and it was nice to see a Middle Eastern character, because I feel like I don’t see that often. Also (minor spoiler) Ove takes in a young gay man (even though he kind of hates everyone), after he’s kicked out of his home for coming out. This is one of the few books I’ve read that I feel didn’t make a point (or plot) of out diversity, but simply reflected the world as it is. And it made me really happy.
The story itself was secondary to the characters, but it was equally as wonderful. It was slow burning, but extremely touching. This book made me laugh, but it also brought me to the edge of tears. Overall, it was an incredible read.
I love this book so much! It’s one of those books that will stay with me for a very long time, and I’m so glad I read it. I’m also looking forward to reading more of Backman’s writing (I just got an ARC of his next release, Beartown, so I’ll be reading that next).
You can order your copy of A Man Called Ove here.
I listened to the audiobook, and really enjoyed it. If that’s something you’re interested in, definitely give it a shot. And, to get it free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose A Man Called Ove as one of your two free books (which you get to keep even if you cancel).
If you’ve read this book, let me know what you thought of it in the comments!