Prior to our 2015 summer vacation in Europe, I headed to Vroman's Bookstore to find some physical books to supplement my Kindle library for our trip. I mean, what if the Kindle broke or the battery died? I can't face being bookless. The horror!
So, I was browsing at Vroman's and Fredrik Backman's A Man Called Ove called out to me.
Basically, it had a cat on the cover. How could I resist?
However, I also discovered that the author is Swedish and as I was vacationing with my Swedish step-children, this was kismet.
PLOT- What is the root of pessimism? Ove is a grump. He's nearly sixty, a widower and his greatest enjoyment is policing his housing estate. Ove has decided that he is ready to leave this world. Unfortunately, the world is not ready to let Ove go. Every time he tries to commit suicide, his plans are thwarted by needy neighbors, including a mangy, stray cat. Will his neighbors make Ove realize that he is a vital part of their community or will he succeed in his wishes?
LIKE - Even with dark themes like loneliness and suicide, A Man Called Ove, is absolutely hilarious and utterly charming. I dare you to read this book and not fall in love with Ove or his neighbors. The story unfolds slowly, peeling back the layers to discover the root of Ove's pessimism. Backman handles the reveal with pitch perfect pacing, allowing the reader to fully absorb the scope of Ove's life.
You will cry. Buckets.
A Man Called Ove is incredibly moving and poignant. I'm a fast reader and I had to force myself to slow down to take in the heft and impact of this story. This is a story of the power of community and the need to let people into your life, however I had the funny experience of wishing that I was reading this book alone, not while on a packed cruise ship. I guess it's hard to experience powerful emotions while around other people, even if that is what this story is promoting. I hope this will be made into a movie, as I love the cathartic experience of crying in a theatre, where you are both alone and surrounded by people.
Ove is not the only memorable character. In Ove's backstory we learn about his wife, Sonja, who loves him warts and all. She is his ideal companion and a strong woman. We also meet Anita and Rune, their neighbors, with whom Ove has done battle over the years. Most endearing is Parvaneh, who has just moved to town with her husband and children. Parvaneh's family needs a lot of help and they don't seem to understand personal boundaries with new acquaintances, which is exactly what Ove doesn't want, yet desperately needs. The burst into his life with an utter lack of awareness that is both irritating and charming.
DISLIKE- Nothing at all. A Man Called Ove isn't just one of the best books that I've read this year, it is one of the best books that I've ever read. Truly and I don't throw that around lightly. I've enthusiastically recommended it to several friends and will continue to do so.
RECOMMEND - Don't hesitate, go read A Man Called Ove immediately. I left my copy in the library of Royal Caribbean's The Explorer of the Seas, in hopes that it will be enjoyed by many people. This is such a beautiful story with memorable characters and it will not leave readers unaffected.