Well, I’m sitting on my couch (still in my pjs, ahem) waiting for an enormous hurricane to strike. Irma is basically drizzly and gray so far, so nothing too exciting. Plus, we were already sitting in the dark since George likes to turn off the lights ever since he figured out he was tall enough to reach the switch. It’s a lot of “hurry up and wait” when hurricane season comes to Florida. I much prefer the holiday season, but you have to take the bad with the good, I suppose.
So, I just finished A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. When I closed the back cover, I dubbed the book, “Cute,” to my husband, who kind of nodded while he worked on his own laptop. It’s naptime for the littles, so we’re sprinting through whatever we can before Olivia starts hollering from behind her crib bars.
A Man Called Ove has been raved about by everyone and anyone for months now. It was published in 2012 by the author, then in 2014 by the translator, as the author is Swedish. I’ve only read a handful of translated books (the Bible being the main one that comes to mind. Not that I’m comparing this fictional novel with the Bible, mind you), and I know little to nothing about the Swedish lifestyle. I also don’t read many books written by men. I know this is an odd aside, but I find male authors to write much differently than female. There tends to be more…blunt purpose? I’ve enjoyed books by both, but I’m always very aware when a man writes a book (Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series).
My friend Kristen (hi, Kristen!) lent this book to me months (and months) ago. Since I have a constant stack of library books at my disposal, I’m terrible at reading books with no due date. Though, I loved this book so much that I may “accidentally” forget to give it back…(sorry, Kristen!).
Ove is a 59-year-old curmudgeon. Frankly, I began asking my knows-something-about-most-things husband if the age expectancy in Sweden is shorter than in America, because Ove comes across as a 69-year-old set in his curmudgeonly ways. I’m just throwing that out there for all of the 59ish-year-olds reading this post. You don’t seem as…aged…to me as Ove does. You’re welcome, you spry, youthful readers!
Ove’s wife passed away recently.
“People had always said that Ove was ‘bitter.’ But he wasn’t bloody bitter. He just didn’t go around grinning the whole time. Did that mean one had to be treated like a criminal? Ove hardly thought so. Something inside a man goes to pieces when he has to bury the only person who ever understood him. There is no time to heal that sort of wound.”
Side Note: Does “bloody” count as a curse word in America? If it does, I apologize for the trash-talkin’ turn this blog has taken today. I’ll try to keep it squeakier in the future.
This is the story of a man who stopped living after losing his beloved wife, Sonja. Not that he died physically, but he decidedly quit living. And it’s also the story of a community that loved the man into living again.
Ove is the set-in-his-ways man everyone knows. He doesn’t own a cell phone and doesn’t want to. He always buys a new car every three years (you save money that way) from the same manufacturer (Saab in this case). He eagle-eyes the neighborhood for miscreant youths and cars improperly parked. He also writes letters unceasingly to the white-shirted bureaucrats when he’s discontented with a situation. He believes the worth of anything can be tested by giving it a solid kick or tugging on it three times.
He’s the man of few words and the hidden sweetheart. And he would be angry as a hornet to see those words written about him.
It’s not a huge spoiler to reveal that Ove attempts to take his own life a few times. It’s nothing particularly gruesome (and you soon realize he’s terrible at accomplishing this because there are so many pages left in the book), but it’s something to consider, especially if you’ve personally been affected by suicide. Ove is simply finished living without his wife, and he’s convinced he’ll simply join her in the afterlife.
The character development, the perception inside the mind of a man living in a modern culture not his own, and the full come-about of storylines was just lovely. I’m not the most accomplished writer, and I’m always amazed at how some authors can tie and weave the tiniest details back into their stories in the conclusion. I found myself laughing out loud, tearing up, and gasping aloud as details fell into place.
Just…go get yourself a copy.
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