A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Who thought a story about a curmudgeon would be an absolute read!
I have not loved a book this much in a while, not since Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Come to think of it, these two characters are similar, from the scheduled lifestyle to the principles in life that they believe everyone ought to live by and a life full of disappointment.
The only difference is, Ove is a 59-year old man. Everyone considers him a bitter and grumpy old sod. He complains about everything; people driving in the estate, the lack of loyalty to brands, the new lifestyle where people can no longer do anything, and the stray cat he hates that can’t seem to leave him alone. Everything you have in mind, Ove probably has reservations about it.
And, after being laid a few months after his wife’s death, Ove is ready to follow her. He has everything planned, right from how he will commit suicide to burial arrangements and what happens to his belongings. He has left detailed instructions for everything.
I know, such a dark way to begin a book. But with every failed attempt, thanks to the interrupting neighbours and other nosy people, you kind of get into the gist of it all. Death. Here is someone tired of living. There is nothing left to live for. He feels alone and tired, and it is probably about time he joined his loving wife.
All this while, the author makes you think about the end. Do you ever think about your ending? When one minute you are talking and laughing with a loved one and the next minute they are snatched away from you? The big gap that’s usually left behind, and you wonder how your ending will be? How will those left behind feel? What your last minutes in this world will be like? Or whether everyone will pass on and you will be left alone?
“Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it’s often one of the great motivations for living. Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more fury. Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis. Others become so preoccupied with it that they go into the waiting room long before it has announced its arrival. We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.”
― Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove
The book starts slow because why lie. It is like reading an older version of Sheldon Cooper. But he is a man you can’t ignore, and you get to love him. Once you start to understand his point of view, where he is coming from, the kind of life he has led, you begin to fall in love with him.
You fall in love with his growth once the immigrant neighbours start getting into his business, the kind of family and friendship he develops with the ‘bothersome’ neighbour Parvaneh and her family. Ove even manages to bring a father and son closer after he kicks his son out for his sexual orientation.
Most importantly, you will fall in love with Backman’s writing. I mean, not many authors manage to pull a book in a third-person narration and nail it.
Backman makes you think of love, and you realise that even those of us who believe we are undeserving, there is probably someone out there for you. Someone will bring colour into your dull life, and it will never be the same without them. For Ove, it was his wife, Sonja.
Sonja was his colour, the bridge between his world and the rest of the world. It is honestly hard and beautiful to see how a woman like Sonja would love a man like Ove. He views everything in black and white. But Backman has such a beautiful way of expressing this love:
“Loving someone is like moving into a house. At first, you fall in love with all the new things, amazed every morning that all this belongs to you, as if fearing that someone would suddenly come rushing in through the door to explain that a terrible mistake had been made, you weren’t actually supposed to live in a wonderful place like this. Then over the years, the walls become weathered, the wood splinters here and there, and you start to love that house not so much because of all its perfection, but rather for its imperfections. You get to know all the nooks and crannies. How to avoid getting the key caught in the lock when it’s cold outside. Which of the floorboards flex slightly when one steps on them or exactly how to open the wardrobe doors without them creaking. These are the little secrets that make it your home.”
― Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove
If you have to read one more book this year, or need a story about grief, or just need a book that destroys you but still makes you smile, this should be it.
My ★ Rating 4.5
Goodreads ★ Rating 4.35 (as of August 2021)