Thursday, February 23, 2017

Book Review - A Man Called Ove - Highly Recommend

This book will definitely make it on my best-reads-of-the-year list at the end of 2017! I'm not surprised at all that it quickly became an international bestseller. I agree wholeheartedly with all of the endorsements on the back cover:

"If there was an award for 'Most Charming Book of the Year,' this first novel ... would win hands down." - Booklist

"[A] crowd-pleaser that serves up laughs to accompany a thoughtful reflection on loss and love." - Publishers Weekly

"There are characters who amuse us, and stories that touch us. But this character and his story do even more: A Man Called Ove makes us think about who we are and how we want to live our lives.... Frederick Backman packs a lifetime's worth of hilarity and heartbreak into this novel. Even the most crusty curmudgeon will love Ove!" - Lois Leveen

Ove is facing several challenges (loss of, first, his wife, then his job) on the day his new neighbors back their trailer into his mailbox. He cannot believe they could possibly be so incompetent and tells them as much. But this young couple with their two daughters insert themselves into Ove's life at this perilous time and keep him going in a way he never anticipated.

I was swept into the tale from the very start as Ove enters a computer store seeking assistance in facing the technological opportunities surrounding him. He is overwhelmed with the newfangled toys and nonplussed by the assistant who seems incapable of providing help and more intent upon getting to his lunch break than in assisting Ove. His character begins to shine through and worm his way into the reader's heart. As each chapter progresses, you get more of a picture of this crusty old man (although, being in my fifties, it seemed 59 was a young age to be calling him a crusty old man).

The author delightfully manages to sweep you back and forth between tears of sadness and tears of laughter. In the midst of painting the heartbreaking tale of a man who misses his wife and just wants to be with her again, you find yourself giggling at the interruptions to his plans, at his good heart, and at his unique perspective on life. You begin to understand what makes him tick and why he is needed in his community.

At one point Ove finds himself driving a load of neighbors home from the hospital (a real sacrifice on his part of both his time and his offering of his beloved car). I had to laugh out loud as the author writes, "Ove looks at the group assembled around him, as if he's been kidnapped and taken to a parallel universe. For a moment he thinks about swerving off the road, until he realizes that the worst-case scenario would be that they all accompanied him into the afterlife. After this insight, he reduces his speed and increases the gap significantly between his car and the one in front."

The author expresses the old man's struggle with the idea of taking pills to end his life: "[Ove] has never liked the feeling of losing control. He's come to realize over the years that it's this very feeling that normal folk like and strive for, but as far as Ove is concerned only a complete bloody airhead could find loss of control a state worth aiming for."

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I will rave about it to anyone who will listen. It has such depth and such humor simultaneously. I wept at the ending. The author brings the tale full circle in a satisfying way and the reader is left with a longing to find a community just like Ove's and play whatever role life intends. It also makes you stop and think that the next grumpy person you encounter has a whole life-story behind them and a value you often cannot easily comprehend.

I discovered this trailer for the movie based upon the book. I might just have to give it a try. If nothing else, the trailer helped me understand the Swedish pronunciation of the main character's name (something I struggled with through the whole book, thinking "do you say it o-vay or ove, like rhyming with glove?) - it is pronounced oo-vay. I almost wish it actually was pronounced the second way because I love Ove!

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