Updated: Mar 29, 2020
Fredrik Backman is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I fell in love with his writing style after reading Beartown and now I am completely smitten after listening to the audiobook for A Man Called Ove. Backman is a literary fiction genius. Period. His characters come alive through his writing and as a reader, it is impossible not to become invested in their lives. He has a way with stringing words together that are tug at your heart strings and make you ponder life.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman is a story about an elderly man named Ove (pronounced "Uh-va") who can be described simply as a curmudgeon. He is crabby, particular, opinionated, sour faced, jaded, and cranky. He is all of the above, and then some. But beneath Ove's hard, crab like shell, he is a man who fights for those he cares about and is loyal to a fault. He has a heart that strives to defend the wronged and is soft at his core, though he has an interesting way of showing it. The book begins with Ove trying to purchase a computer at an Apple store. Ove wants any old computer, and the young sales clerk starts showing him an iPad. Ove begins badgering him with questions. He asks where the keyboard is and when the clerk says it does not come with a keyboard, Ove begrudgingly responds that the keyboard must be an add-on where the manufacturer "tricks" customers into paying extra for it. I laughed out loud while listening to this on my drive to work. Ove was not short on giving me laughs and I highly enjoyed listening to this on audio.
Ove sees the world in black and white, but his late wife, Sonja, saw the world in color. Sonja was the love of his life, until she passed away six months ago. Sonja exuded positivity and lived her life to the fullest. Ove now lives his life each day enforcing his home owner's association laws (telling passerby's they are not allowed to drive on that side of the street, reminding people to keep their garages locked, and clearing the snow from the walkways) and trying to commit suicide so that he can return to Sonja.
Ove is much more than a curmudgeon. He is a man mourning his wife who his entire world centered around. When she passed away, he stopped living. Ove goes through the motions, but thinks about Sonja every minute of every day. A new family moves in next door to Ove and his world takes on a new hue. Ove forms an unlikely friendship with Parvaneh, his pregnant next door neighbor. She moves in with her husband, Patrick, and their two daughters. The blossoming of this friendship takes Ove's life on a new journey and one that reflects on his life with Sonja and his past.
As much as I laughed while listening to A Man Called Ove, I also cried. It is somehow both heavy and light at the same time, and the tone can change in merely one sentence. My heart broke for Ove when the book went into his back story and life with Sonja. She was the true love of his life and after she passed away, he felt he had no reason to live, simple as that. His friendship with Parvaneh was endearing and I felt like she reminded Ove of Sonja. Parvaneh had an intuition about her and she picked up on what Ove's plans were, so she gave him purpose. Each day, Ove methodically planned his death, but Parvaneh intercepted at the right time, putting his plans on hold for the next day, until he ultimately found his reason for living again. A Man Called Ove is a wonderful story about life, who we let into our lives and how we go about living it. Ove had strong opinions about most things in his life, but when it came down to it, he cared for others and wanted to help them when he could. Though Ove was guarded and wore an armor that few could penetrate, Parvaneh saw a weakness in it and was able to make an impact on his life.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman is almost too hard to put into words. It is much more than the story of a grumpy old man, it is the story of life and death, and all the stuff inbetween. It is about embracing the uniqueness in one another and telling our story through our actions and loved ones. I gave A Man Called Ove ★★★★★ and highly recommend it. The narrator for the audiobook was fabulous and did a great job bringing all of the characters to life. His rendition of Ove had me cracking up on my daily commute. Fredrik Backman has several other published novels and I look forward to reading the rest on my backlist.