There’s not much that scares me these days. Actually, there is only one thing that still terrifies me. Simply, it’s the thought of dying before my wife. So for me, this book was hard to read. Not hard meaning difficult, but hard meaning it kept me thinking about things I didn’t really want to think about.
The basic theme of this book is the sudden burden that overcomes Ove when his beloved wife dies. His solution is to commit suicide and his many attempts at this span the entire book.
But during this dark period, a whole group of misfits come into his life. Ove welcomes none of them starting with a stray cat, and then a feisty, pregnant Iranian women, her rather helpless, incompetent husband, their two young children, a fat computer nerd, a young man Ove considers “bent,” and an old friend he now thinks of as an enemy.
During the span of the book, Ove has all out conflicts with more than half-a-dozen different people. While at first they may seem the irrational acts of an unruly person, you also get the sense that these people—a bully, an abusive husband, a overzealous social worker, a burglar, and a clown—got exactly what they deserved. But the real story is his interactions with his neighbors that run the gauntlet of different emotions.
Ove is one of those people who have decided a long time ago exactly how a man should live his life and feels a bit trapped in today’s world where anything seems to go. His views may seem a bit skewered as when he has an “instinctive skepticism towards all people taller than six feet because the blood can’t quite make it all the way up to their brain.” He’s like a combination of Jack Nicholson’s cantankerous character Melvin in the movie “As Good As it Gets” and Jack Lemon’s inflexible Oscar in “The Odd Couple.” To most people, he just a grumpy, old geezer.
And that’s where I’ll stop; I don’t want to piecemeal the plot out to you. This is one of the best novels I have read in a long time. I wish I had the money to by the rights to make this book into a movie, because, if done right, it will get an Oscar nomination. This is a very well crafted, often funny, sometimes tragic story that will affect every reader differently. In the end, I think nearly everyone will feel the book was an incredible experience (if I’m wrong let me know with your comments and I will re-evaluate my entire value system [not really]).
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman/Atria Books/2014
Note: Like with movies, the only reviews you will see from me are about books I think are excellent and well worth your time. If I wrote about books or movies I considered terrible or lacking, it might make me feel superior to trash someone’s work, but what good does that do you? Also, even if a writer produces a bad book or dull movie, they still deserve respect for trying.