Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Man Called Ove - Fredrik Backman

Summary:  At first sight, Ove is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet, a curmudgeon with staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse.  He thinks himself surrounded by idiots -- and no wonder, with all those happy joggers and shop assistants who talk in code, not to mention the perpetrators of the vicious coup d'etat that ousted him as chairman of his neighborhood residents' association.  People think him bitter.  But must a man be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered on his face all the time, doesn't always tell people what they want to hear, and remains silent when he has nothing in particular to say?

Ove's well-ordered, solitary world gets a shake-up one November morning with the appearance of new neighbors -- a chatty young couple and their two boisterous daughters -- who announce their arrival by flattening Ove's mailbox with their U-Haul.  What follows is a funny and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unlikely friendships, and a community's unexpected reassessment of the one person they thought they had all figured out.

A word-of-mouth bestseller that has caused a sensation across Europe, Fredrik Backman's irresistible novel about the angry old man next door is an uplifting exploration of the unreliability of first impressions and a gentle reminder that life is sweeter when it is shared with other people.  (Summary from book cover)

My Review:  It's been a while since I've really felt called to a book.  You know?  The kind of book that you think about when you're not reading it. The kind of book you talk about with others even though you haven't finished it yet.  The kind of book that physically pulls you back to your reading spot and says: Listen up Missy!  Yes, I know you've got stuff to do.  Screw it.  READ ME.  RIGHT NOW.   I picked up A Man Called Ove on the recommendation of my favorite librarian and former RFS Reviewer, Heather and  I am so glad I did.  I needed to wash the what-did-I-just-read taste out of my brain left by the last book* I failed to force myself to finish.  Thankfully, A Man Called Ove was just the thing.

If you want a one sentence summary of the book:  Think Gran Torino, but with much less violence and slightly less racisim.  For those of you who haven't seen Gran Torino or who'd like a little more...read on.

In A Man Called Ove, I pretty much took my measure of the main character, Ove, within the first few pages.  Yowza, he's a grump -- old, angry, unpleasant, unreasonable, and just plain rude to pretty much everyone.  It's hard to imagine why anyone would want to read an entire book about a cross old fogey, but I kept on reading because there was just something about him that was the tiniest bit ridiculous and I had a sneaking suspicion that there was more to his story. I was right (go me!).  With each chapter, I learned a little about Ove's history, personality, and motivations.  Each glimpse into his past, made me love him a bit more.  The time spent in Ove's present was a somewhat sadistic delight as various members of the community he scorns worm their way into his life and heart and seriously mess with his plans for the future.

Sometimes authors spend all their time on a main character and forget to flesh out their secondaries, but A Man Called Ove, does not disappoint in that department.  I loved Ove, first and foremost, but Parvaneh, Patrick, and their kids, Sonja, Anita, Rune, Lena, the Blonde Weed, Anders, Adrian, Jimmy, the White Shirts, and even (and especially) the Cat, were all clearly established in my mind.  I could see each of them and even their mannerisms as they interacted - like a movie was playing itself out in my head.  It was awesome.

One of my favorite aspects of any well written book is the moment where things come together and a book gets flipped on its head -- reorienting my perspective and bring things together in a jaw-dropping way.  This book held a few of those moments for me, but I am being deliberately vague about the details because I don't want to yank those moments away from anyone who might be reading this review and thinking, "Hmmm...this Ove guy sounds interesting."  A Man Called Ove is beyond interesting.  And unbelievably sweet.  And a lesson to all about love, the importance of principles, and the absolute necessity of looking a little deeper before pronouncing judgment.

*The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest.  For me, it was mind numbing.  And not in a good way.  That's all the review you will be getting as I don't wish to waste any more time thinking about it.

My Rating:  5 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  The occasional swear word.  Some brief discussion of a homosexuality.  One very angry (and kind of adorable) man.

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