If you enjoyed The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, you will love A Man Called Ove. It’s a humorous and tender story of a cranky Scrooge-like character who transforms as his life finds purpose through community.
Ove is an irascible, taciturn old codger labeled “The most inflexible man in the world,” (or at least his neighborhood in Sweden). His sarcastic analysis of his neighbors (The Lanky One, and the Pregnant Foreign Lady) and the state of the world, are humorous and show his frustration with life. “This was a world where one became outdated before one’s time was up. An entire country standing up and applauding the fact that no one was capable of doing anything properly anymore. The undeserved celebration of mediocrity.” Ove believes people need a function. Ironically, when his is thrust upon him, he and everyone around him changes and grows. Ove becomes the fix-it savior to his next-door-neighbors.
As Ove’s backstory unfolds, we become endeared to him just as his neighbors grow to love the man whose crusty exterior is cracking. The Pregnant Foreign Lady trusts him like no other friend, her little girl draws him in color because he’s the funniest thing she knows, and estranged friendships are renewed. Ove’s muddled attempts at ending his life are extinguished as the novel inspires the reader to choose light over darkness. “We can busy ourselves with living or with dying, Ove. We have to move on.” It’s a story of hope and moving on by helping others.
The opening is a little hard to get into, but read on for a rich story and wonderful writing that is witty, acerbic, and heartbreakingly beautiful. I just have to share some it with you.
Witty. As Ove drives his quirky neighbors to the hospital, “Ove looks at the group assembled around him, as if he’s been kidnapped and taken to a parallel universe. For a moment he thinks about swerving off the road, until he realizes that the worst-case scenario would be that they all accompanied him into the afterlife. After this insight, he reduces his speed and increases the gap significantly between his own car and the one in front.”
Acerbic. While teaching the Pregnant Foreign Woman to drive, Ove’s encouragement is unique. He explains she can do it, despite her family of complete idiots. “I’m not asking for brain surgery. I’m asking you to drive a car,” he tells her. “Because you are not a complete twit.” (I’ve taken to using that sentence with fellow readers when they need inspiration).
Heartbreakingly beautiful. “You have to love me twice as much now,” Ove’s wife tells him after she loses her father. “And then Ove lied to her for the second—and last—time; he said that he would. Even though he knew it wasn’t possible for him to love her any more than he already did.” Ove’s tender love and commitment is a beautiful model for any marriage.
I also love the precious backstory scene when a young Ove finds a wallet and confesses to his father.
“I thought about keeping the money,” Ove whispered at long last, and took his father’s hand in a firmer grip, as if he was afraid of letting go.
“I know,” said his father, and squeezed his hand a little harder. “But I knew you would hand it in….”
On that day Ove learned “right has to be right” and that he would be “as little unlike his father as possible.” Could we find a better example of how parents model honesty?
A Man Called Ove is a “Readeemable” because it reminds us not to judge a man by his cover but read the pages of his life and discover the truth of a rich backstory. It exemplifies “Love Thy Neighbor,” inspiring readers to step out our front door and invest in the characters of all ages who surround us every day. And like Ove, we’ll find purpose in our lives and enjoy being a part of a rich community.
Ann Marie Stewart
2015 Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Krog3tcuO4M