Review of ‘A Man Called Ove’

By Ashley Lessa

A Man Called Ove
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman Image Credit: Goodreads

“Meet Ove. He is 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 does not walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?”-promotional description (Amazon)

A Man Called Ove, a Swedish novel written by Fredrik Backman and published by Atria Publishing Group, is a sarcastic, hilarious, and profoundly heartfelt read that will have you crying from both laughter and sorrow.

A Man Called Ove follows 59-year-old Ove at the start of his “retired life.” Pushed out of his job early due to his lack of tech skills, we follow him through his daily routine, which primarily consists of enforcing the “no vehicles in the residential area” rule of the neighborhood association and monitoring the area for crime. His habits are much the same until one day, the new neighbors Patrick, the pregnant Parvaneh, and their two children arrive, greeting him by accidentally scraping the side of his house with their moving trailer. Ove, frustrated by Patrick’s incompetence, reluctantly agrees to help Patrick back it up. As he grumbles, so does Parvaneh. Little does he know that this will be the start of a strange but sweet friendship.

At the novel’s start, Ove is a wholly unlikeable but amusing curmudgeon with a dark sense of humor. He is utterly rude to all whom he encounters. However, as the story goes on, the story reveals Ove’s simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking life story. By revealing his true character through fragments, his habits become endearing allowing the reader to understand Ove.

The arrival of Patrick and Parvaneh is the first of many reluctant friendships in the novel, perhaps the next most important of which is the neighborhood stray cat who takes a liking to Ove. As Parvaneh, the cat, and others stubbornly refuse to leave Ove alone and even push him to be a better person, his once dull routine is shaken up.

A Man Called Ove is a surprising story that speaks the truth about life’s hardest realities. It explores the realities of life, death, love, and tragedy with wisdom and dark, dry humor. It is the type of story that, while at times hard to take, is relatable, warm, and inspirational. Backman, through beautiful storytelling and expert characterization, teaches essential lessons with subtlety and wit.

Well-written, beautifully characterized and hilariously narrated, this Swedish read is possibly one of the best books I have encountered. (★★★★★)

TW: suicide

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