“People had always said that Ove was bitter. But he wasn’t bloody bitter. He just didn’t go around grinning the whole time. Did that mean one had to be treated like a criminal? Ove hardly thought so. Something inside a man goes to pieces when he has to bury the only person who ever understood him. There is no time to heal that sort of wound.”Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove
Be prepared to fall in love with this emotional roller-coaster of a book. One minute you’ll be laughing at one of the many funny analogies and the next minute you’ll be swallowing hard through the lump in your throat, trying hard not to cry. For those of you weak at heart, grab onto those Kleenex.
The protagonist, named Ove, is a recent widower who “just stopped living” when his wife, Sonja, passed away. He is portrayed as a grumpy old man next-door who takes it upon himself to discipline the neighborhood. Hell has no wrath like Ove when he finds someone has disobeyed rules like “No vehicular traffic in the residential area” or overstayed the 24 hour guest parking limit.
But what the book also shows is a softer side of Ove, who misses his wife so much that he cannot wait to join her in the afterlife. It takes you through Ove’s childhood, how he fell in love with Sonja and how they tackled life together – he in black and white, and she in a pop of colors. It’s hard not to justify Ove when you get to know the circumstances that shaped him to be what he has become.
Just when Ove was altogether giving up on life, his life is disrupted by his new neighbors – Parvaneh, her husband who Ove refers to as “the lanky one” and their kids. Parvaneh is the most interesting, funny and lovable character in the book and the only one who got Ove to break his stern facade.
After the new neighbors show up, all Ove yearns for is a quite moment at home when one or the other of his recent encounters show up at his doorstep for a favor or two. The book goes on to show how a grumpy old man like Ove can still be a hero, albeit one that mutters profanities under his breath, to anyone in need.
This is a book which I can say with all certainty that I will be reading, or rather listening to, again and again. Not sure if it’s the riveting audible narration that made this one of my favorite books ever, or the story in itself. Either way, it is sure to stir your emotions, which is a good exercise if they have been dormant for a while. Just think of it as a good cleanser for your soul, if you will. Five stars!