― Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove
In this bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Sweden, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.
Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?
Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.
A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful and charming exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others.
2. The Supporting Cast. The supporting characters in this novel really amped up the story and complimented Ove so well. Without these characters, Ove is simply an old grouch, but these characters really make him endearing and show a softer side of him. Or… a loving side of him. My two favorite characters (other than Ove) are the cat and Parvaneh, the pregnant woman who just moved in next door. Both of these characters bring out a loving side of Ove that makes him that much more endearing. Plus, his wife, while not actually in the novel because she passed away, is a lingering presence that gives a bit more humanity to Ove. You can see that through his hard exterior, he genuinely loved her. (PS. That first quote in the quotes section? One of my favorites of all time.)
3. This book is LAUGH OUT LOUD funny. The sarcasm. The wit. Ove is one hilarious dude. I can’t properly describe it, except for quotes like this:
His insane neighbor begins to look threatening.
“It’s probably full of disgusting diseases and rabies and all sorts of things!”
Ove looks at the cat. Looks at the Weed. Nods.
“And so are you, most likely. But we don’t throw stones at you because of it.”
Now, when it’s gone quarter to six and Ove has got up, the cat is sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor. It sports a disgruntled expression, as if Ove owes it money. Ove stares back at it with a suspicion normally reserved for a cat that has rung his doorbell with a Bible in its paws, like a Jehovah’s Witness.
(I understand that both of these quotes are about the cat, but, my goodness their interactions are wonderful.)
I will recommend this novel to anyone and everyone; it was light-hearted, poignant, and hilarious.
“To love someone is like moving into a house,” Sonja used to say. “At first you fall in love in everything new, you wonder every morning that this is one’s own, as if they are afraid that someone will suddenly come tumbling through the door and say that there has been a serious mistake and that it simply was not meant to would live so fine. But as the years go by, the facade worn, the wood cracks here and there, and you start to love this house not so much for all the ways it is perfect in that for all the ways it is not. You become familiar with all its nooks and crannies. How to avoid that the key gets stuck in the lock if it is cold outside. Which floorboards have some give when you step on them, and exactly how to open the doors for them not to creak. That’s it, all the little secrets that make it your home. ”
“She just smiled, said that she loved books more than anything, and started telling him excitedly what each of the ones in her lap was about. And Ove realised that he wanted to hear her talking about the things she loved for the rest of his life.”
“Ove had never been asked how he lived before he met her. But if anyone had asked him, he would have answered that he didn’t.”
“And time is a curious thing. Most of us only live for the time that lies right ahead of us. A few days, weeks, years. One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead. And when time no longer lies ahead of one, other things have to be lived for. Memories, perhaps. Afternoons in the sun with someone’s hand clutched in one’s own. The fragrance of flower beds in fresh bloom. Sundays in a cafe. Grandchildren, perhaps.”
“She laughed and laughed and laughed until the vowels were rolling across the walls and floors, as if they meant to do away with the laws of time and space.”