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Book Review – A Man Called Ove

I thought Fredrik Backman, who is quite clearly not a curmudgeon, did an excellent job with this book; a feel good story about a curmudgeon. Ove, our dashing main character, stayed tried and true to his role as classic old smartass through and through, as did the rest of the characters, and it was brilliant. There was no falling flat in that department, and to start things off, I just want everyone to know how incredibly genuine and realistic I found this novel to be. Even the cat stayed in fucking character.

A Man Called Ove follows Ove, a grumpy old man who is neither in denial, nor in favor of the overload of idiots that have him surrounded. When the new neighbors move in next door, consistently derailing his plan to *spoiler alert* kill himself, it is with their incompetence in all areas of assembling, driving, and fixing. Three things Ove cannot avoid meddling in, if only to leave the world in as good a shape as he can before reuniting with his beloved wife, Sonja.  

If you’re not sort of frowning in that laughable “seriously?” type of way, then you need to go back and reread the previous paragraph until you are. This book was obviously hilarious, only because the old bag was so fucking stubborn. I didn’t cry, there were no tears, but I did crack up several times and lean over the center console of my mom’s Toyota to tell her what I just read, followed up by my agitation when she didn’t laugh too. (Something Ove totally would have done. And then he would have berated her for driving an American car.)

It is my understanding that this book originated in Sweden, so therefore it must have been translated to English. In any case, there were a few areas where I felt it could have been cleaned up. The book didn’t flow as much as I would have liked it to. There were so many long run-on sentences that had me confused and rereading enough times to make me put the book down and wonder if I was going crazy. It sort of ran with this disgruntled flow the entire time.

For instance: 

“Everyone seems to be thinking the same thing: If a non-throat-tattooed man of Ove’s age without any hesitation steps up to a throat-tattooed man of the age of this Throat Tattoo and presses him up against a car in this manner, then it’s very likely not the throat-tattooed man one should be most worried about annoying.”

You will understand it after you read it four times, but by the time that you’ve read it the fourth time you’re like okay, that’s enough for tonight. 

Another thing. The author used “as if” as a way of describing the action or look of someone in comparison to something else at least once on every page, sometimes two, three, even four times. It was very very repetitive, and while it certainly paints a good picture, the constant repetition definitely screwed with the flow of writing. 

I thought the pacing was fantastic, specifically with the flashbacks, which were well-placed. I loved Sonja and Ove’s love story. Fredrik really got the two characters, the time period, and their interactions accurate. Again, A++ for characterization. The pacing was beautiful too. I thought the story moved along so perfectly, I thought every detail was important and well-placed, and I am so grateful for how everything unfolded.

The story itself was a knockout. SO unique. SO compelling. SO heartwarming. It was simple, but extraordinarily told. For me, the flashbacks and characters really made it into something more than just a story about an old man and his plans to perish alongside his since-passed wife. They made it into this coming of age, sort of thrilling saga about a man who is so honorable you’re sort of sitting there, slack-jawed, and wondering how one becomes both this stubborn and this moral. 

Ove is ONE OF THE MOST COMPLICATED HUMAN BEINGS ALIVE, yet you will totally understand him. And that is all thanks to Fredrik. Jesus Christ dude, save some talent for the rest of us. 

Everything about Ove was perfect. No character will ever be done better. The way he speaks, thinks, wishes to die, assesses the world around him. You will love it. 

“Broadly speaking there are two kinds of people. Those who understand how extremely useful white cables can be, and those who don’t. Jimmy is the first of these. He loves white cables. And white telephones. And white computer monitors with fruit on the back. That’s more or less the sum of what Ove has absorbed during the journey into town, when Jimmy natters on excitedly about the sorts of things every rational person ought to be so insuperably interested in, until Ove at last sinks into a sort of deeply meditative state of mind, in which the overweight young man’s babbling turns to a dull hissing in his ears.”


And pretty much everything Ove says or thinks is like that. Everything is this long explanation for how completely incompetent the world has become and how completely moronic the people in his neighborhood are. It’s witty, cynical, and uproariously accurate.

This is another instance where the female characters in a book are all SOOOOO unbelievably strong. I love when men write strong female characters!! I can’t say it enough. Parvenah and Sonja were two knockouts. Both of them, in their own ways, refused to take Ove’s bullshit, thus this seemingly unspinnable man was spinning on their fingers. The power of women… especially when men notice… is undeniable. I love reading it, and books that have it immediately gain twenty points from me.

The literature, now the way he wrote was obviously aimed more for the funny, cynical side of things, but there were some really beautiful lines in this book. Some really beautiful analyses of hustling, bustling life itself and I was shaking my head a lot just taking in these blue moon words. 

“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.”

Jesus Christ is that a satisfying way to sum it up.

The last thing I want to talk about is the ending. It was SO sound. As sound as an ending can be. Do not start reading this book and leave it unfinished. The ending is too good, it comes full-circle, and you see it approaching, but it doesn’t scare you because you know that it’s going to be completely natural and not take you by surprise and I’m so grateful that somebody finally wrote a book where the ending isn’t this ambiguous thing, but simple, sound, and legitimate. I’m so grateful for a great feel good story where you’re left feeling like… FINALLY A BOOK STEALS ME AWAY FROM REALITY BUT IN A REALISTIC WAY THAT DOESN’T INVOLVE WEREPEOPLE OR SOMEONE WHO IS DYING FROM CANCER.

Love. Love. Love. 



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