I picked up Fredrik Backman’s A MAN CALLED OVE while in the used bookstore. I didn’t need to add to my stack of books, but I’ve never been able to turn down a book.
Originally published in Swedish in 2012, A MAN CALL OVE is positively brilliant. It is so beautifully translated. Translations can be bulky and bit iffy – I do feel like the lose some of the magic – but this is one very cleverly crafted tale.
Ove is, quite possibly, the grumpiest man in the world. The opening scene where he is arguing about iPads (that he calls O-Pads)? Who has been in a computer store and not witnessed a similar exchange with someone who is a little bit older and not excellent technologically savvy? That said, he also, quite possibly, has the biggest heart.
It’s a beautiful and hilarious novel centered around a cantankerous older man who is just trying to commit suicide. Widowed and forced into retirement, Ove doesn’t think he has anything to live for anymore. He certainly isn’t needed and he has nothing left to take care. But his attempts to take his life and join his beloved wife and thwarted when young family of four come steamrolling into his life (and over his mailbox.) And somehow the “Pregnant Foreign Woman” and family force themselves into his life and into his heart. They make him feel needed, along with other residents of the small community. And the “cat annoyance” that kept showing up, that kept needed him.
It’s a story of community. More so, it’s the story of the family we choose for ourselves. You will fall in love with Ove. He will infuriate you, and you will curse him as a bitter old coot. But Backman does such a beautiful job of holding back just enough so that the reader falls naturally in love with Ove. You will laugh. You will cry. And your heart will break, mend, and break again.
And that is a damn fine book.
(Tom Hanks has been tapped to play Ove in the English production. I’m not sure what stage it’s currently in, but that casting is perfect.)