Rating: 4.5 of 5
Okay, I gave it a couple weeks, to allow the emotional effects time to dissipate, before I wrote my review. No change, though. I am still head-over-heels for A Man Called Ove. I didn’t think it possible but I loved Ove just as much as Elsa and her Grandma (characters from Backman’s My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry); all three of them are simply endearing, so how could I not.
The book opens with 59-year-old Ove’s attempt to buy an “O-Pad.” If you’re not laughing out loud by the time you finish that first chapter, chances are this isn’t the book for you. Me? I couldn’t wait to spend the next four to five hours with Ove. One of those books where I loathed having to sit it aside for mundane tasks like eating or sleep.
Ove’s grumpy, he’s borderline antisocial, he’s stuck in his ways. But he has a story – don’t we all? – and his story has shaped the man he is, for better or worse. He’s not perfect, not by a long shot, but he’s beautifully flawed with the kind of character we don’t see a whole lot of in the real world anymore. The plot itself isn’t anything mind-blowing, but if you care at all about Ove, you’ll be curious as to how exactly it will all play out.
“Ove didn’t dislike this cat in particular. It’s just that he didn’t much like cats in general. He’d always perceived them as untrustworthy…It was actually quite difficult to determine whether [Ernest] was just an unusually large cat or an outstandingly small lion. And you should never befriend something if there’s a possibility it may take a fancy to eating you in your sleep.”
The book is filled to the brim with Ove’s “perfectly sensible observations” like the one above. From the lazy work ethic of today’s youth who are more interested in their lunch break than doing their job to people who ignore the obvious signs posted about where to park their bicycles and where not to drive their cars to a clown in a hospital ward who doesn’t do real magic. Some of his thinking will have you shaking with giggles while at the same time saying to yourself, “But he’s right!” And of course many of his beliefs are contradicted by his behavior, which makes him even more comical.
A story that shows just when you think you’re all alone, with nothing left to live for, there’s always hope for another chance to reconnect with life, with other people, with love. I laughed and cried throughout A Man Called Ove, and by its end I was a blubbering mess.
Highly recommended to anyone struggling with grief or loneliness.
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(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)