Side effects of finishing this novel:
Affirmation for feeling unfathomable terror while driving a large U-haul truck, especially when driving it in reverse, a sudden feeling of responsibility to take in annoying stray cats, and the desire to act curmudgeonly without abandon or regret.
First off, please note that it’s pronounced ooo-vah (like loofah). It’s Swedish. Thank you, Youtube. Secondly, also note that A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman is not an overtly happy book, for it doesn’t begin in lovely amorous detail about a charming elderly man who lived a long yet fulfilling life. It kind of hits you in the gut at the get go. It’s worth a read, however, because the beginning is not like the end. Thank goodness for things like grace, love and affection.
Ove is the definition of a cantankerous, grumpy old man. And he holds onto that façade with ferocity – going out of his way to punish those who bend the rules of his residential community, adhering to strict daily routines and yelling at people he frankly doesn’t like without apology. But presumably, an angry exterior is only a mask for deep-seated sadness that remains stubbornly buried below the surface. And that is the case for Ove – he has a reason, he has a sadness. On one late fall morning, his routine and plans are abruptly halted upon the arrival of new neighbors, a loud and clumsy family of four. This untimely arrival marks the beginning of many unwelcome disruptions into Ove’s existence – some of which include a U-Haul, a stray cat, an angry woman with a seemingly incontinent dog, a pregnant woman who doesn’t know how to drive, and an iPad with all the bells and whistles. All of these things combine to offer Ove the ingredients to accept change, but the question is if he will accept it.
This is a novel with dark humor and tremendous heart. As aforementioned, it begins on a bit of a dour note, but with every flip of the page Ove and his short-tempered ways become increasingly endearing especially upon learning about his past. His story is one of reconciling the past with the present, finding a new family and discovering a new purpose.
“Ove had never been asked how he lived before he met her. But if anyone had asked him, he would have answered that he didn’t”
“He was a man of black and white. And she was color. All the color he had.”
“‘I’m sorry,’ he mumbled, and kicked his chair leg a little before adding in such a low voice that it could hardly even be heard: ‘I just wanted to know what it felt like to be someone you look at,’ As he was getting up she reached across the table and put her hand on his.”
“Not many men of his kind were made anymore, Sonja had understood. So she was holding on to this one. Maybe he didn’t write her poems or serenade her with songs or come home with expensive gifts. But no other boy had gone the wrong way on the train for hours every day just because he liked sitting next to her while she spoke.”
“You’re the funniest thing she knows. That’s why she always draws you in color.”
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Written by: Elise Cantini