Reading, Writing & Other Addictions

Facing Reality Through Fiction

Book Review: A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

on 08/01/2016

The great thing about working for a book store is that you get your eyes opened to books you otherwise would have passed by.  Every Thursday at 10am, part of the Marketing Department of Half Price Books meets with one of the New Book Buyers to talk about what titles we are going to promote though signage, email, and yes, the book club.  I was given the job of coming up with eight questions for every book club title we choose.  So, it’s also my job to read every book club title we choose.  Most of them I like, a few are meh, and a couple I desperately wish I could get back the hours I wasted reading them.  A Man Called Ove, our August/September book club title, by Fredrik Backman is the best book club title we have ever chosen. But if we hadn’t chosen it, I never would have read it, which would have been a shame, because I truly believe it’s the best book I’ve read this year.

A Man Called Ove is a Swedish novel about a fifty-nine-year-old man called Ove (bet you never would have guessed that) who is forced into early retirement, so he spends his time patrolling the neighborhood, putting bikes back into the bike shed, making sure people are recycling correctly and complaining about dogs who pee on his paving stones.  All his neighbors think of him as the “bitter neighbor from hell,” and he doesn’t think much of them either, coming up with descriptive names for them like “the Lanky One” and “the Weed” because he can’t be bothered to learn their real names.  Then an accident prone man, his pregnant wife and their two girls move in next to him (smashing his mailbox in the process), and through a series of humorous and somewhat touching events they force Ove to come out of his shell and engage with his neighbors.  As Ove’s life is invaded by this family, you learn about Ove, and how he became the cranky old coot everyone believes him to be.

Backman uses clever chapter titles to draw in his readers, and the bittersweet humor that runs through the book makes Ove an endearing character.  I don’t want to give too much of the story away, so I’m not going to tell you why he tries to buy an iPad or why he needs to put up a hook, or why one of my favorite characters is a cat. What I am going to tell you is you need to read this book.

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