Book Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

First off, I was so excited to start reading this book. I’d been waiting for it for so long that I cannot even explain how happy it made me feel to hold it and start reading. It feels surreal actually. And secondly, A Man Called Ove was part of my list of 10 Books That I Hope to Read in 2018. I can’t believe I actually finished reading it. But I do know this: Picking A Man Called Ove and reading it is one of the best decisions I made in my life.

And since I’ve read this book, I’ve become a brand ambassador for Fredrik Backman even though this is the only book of his I’ve ever read. It isn’t like I’m just mentioning this book – it’s full out gushing! I go ‘Oh my gosh you HAVE to read this book if you haven’t already it’s so amazing it’s the most wonderful book I’ve read one of my favorites of all time…’ I NEED to take a breath now and then.

Here’s the thing about debut novels. They are, half the time panned because they aren’t really masterpieces. Some authors take time to get to where they are. And the other half of the time, authors like Fredrik Backman come up with books like A Man Called Ove. Debut novels that are rightfully termed masterpieces and that go on to become bestsellers.

59-year-old Ove is a grumpy old man, with his own ideas of what’s right and what’s wrong. He seems to hate people with everything he has. He grumbles his way through the day. But as long as no one meddles in his affairs, he is alright. As long as no one breaks rules, it’s alright. As long as no one is being a nosy prick, he is alright. By alright, I mean he is content (as much as he can be) in his own shoes. But the thing is, he misses his wife Sonja and explodes at any mention of her by anyone other than himself.

When a young couple with their two daughters moves in across from him, it is all he can do to stop himself from bringing the house down with his anger. Ove’s relationship with Parvaneh, Patrick, and the two daughters develops and there are others, too, that come at their own pace. Some old, some new, and some, absolutely heartbreaking.

I was just 10 pages into reading the book when I could see myself falling in love with the story. There isn’t just one reason for this. The dry wit woven into the unexpected bruises inflicted by the gut-splintering emotions in the book wasn’t something I was prepared for. I laughed so much as I read this story – so much that at times, I felt guilty for laughing even though it was completely warranted in that place. Everything might seem a little too simple, but trust me, it isn’t. It is too heart-wrenching. I even felt I wouldn’t be able to handle everything that A Man Called Ove had to offer.

Here are examples of an absolutely laugh-out-loud statement (one of many, many):

Tottering around the lanes like an inebriated panda on heels as long as box spanners, with clown-paint all over her face and sunglasses so big that one can’t tell whether they’re a pair of glasses or some kind of helmet.

Ove felt it didn’t stop being the butt end of a pig just because you said it another way, but he never mentioned this.

When you have sentences like this, how can one not laugh and fall in love with the genius called Fredrik Backman? It’s an impossibility, that’s what it is!

As A Man Called Ove progressed, I realized a lot of things. That I felt bad for Ove because of how the company of people around him is pressed on to him. That forcing him to do something doesn’t mean I like Parvaneh any better just because Ove happens to like her. That acting like you are entitled to a stranger’s help isn’t sensible (I know this, not realized). If you expect him to be nice when you invade what time he wants to himself (and I don’t care what he wants to do with his life), you’re even thicker than I thought you were.

But a little something I did understand from this: Sometimes, you just need a few irritating people around you to show you that you don’t hate everyone. Even if those people make you want to knock them into the next millennium. Ove doesn’t care about the presence of the people around him as much as he cares about the absence of one person from his life: his wife, Sonja. Sonja, the one person who understands him like no other and accepts him like no other. And Ove cannot come to terms with her absence. He misses her so much that it broke my heart.

I used to wonder why A Man Called Ove was so highly recommended and why people cried their eyes out as they read it. Now, I know. Because I’ve been there, too. I’ve visited that realm and I know that it is going to be a long time before I can emerge from there.  The character arcs and the storyline is simple wonderful. Humorous, yet heartbreaking, surprising yet everything’s as expected, normal yet extraordinary – oh, this book is a mighty paradox! I felt so much as I read it, and cried as it neared the end. I just wanted to jump into the pages and give Ove the biggest hug in the universe.

A Man Called Ove, the story of grumpy old Ove, turned me to absolute mush. It turned me into someone who hoped for the exact opposites. I wanted to read the book as soon as possible, to go with Ove on his journey. But I also didn’t want it to end. Whenever it ended – be it in a day, a week, a month, or a year – it would be too soon, I thought. And the worst part was that I was dreading the end. What would happen to Ove? Would he finally become happy? Or would he finally meet Sonja? What? WHAT? WHAAAAT?

Ove somehow encounters situations that are, in their own ways, hilarious and emotional at the same time. He is a man with integrity, a man whose values you come to understand and love. At some points, I could identify with him so much that as the story went on, it felt like I was Ove. And every time Parvaneh came knocking, I was the one growling as my eyes scoured the words on the pages of the book.

To think of Ove as just a grumpy old man without understanding what he goes through every single day in the absence of his wife is a gross injustice. He might have been just grumpy in the beginning, but as the pages fly by, he is revealed to be so much more than just that. He has had three lives – one before his wife came along, one with his wife, and one after his wife left. And the differences are too stark to not fall in love with the way he loves and misses his wife.

I don’t know what else to say about this masterpiece called A Man Called Ove other than that you should, should go and get this book. If you have this book already and haven’t read it, don’t make the mistake I made any further and not read it. Pick it up asap and just read, read, read it! I simply cannot recommend this enough!

Rating: 5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: Goodreads.

Click on the image below (my Amazon Affiliate link) to buy A Man Called Ove:

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