Review: A Man Called Ove
My friend Amy and I decided to take on a little writing project. Our plan: choose a book each month, read it, and write letters to each other about the book. (Along the way, there was no other discussion about the book so that our letters matter.)
The first nine chapters of Fredrik Backman‘s A Man Called Ove had me rethinking our decision. When we meet Ove, our protagonist, he’s a cliché: a grumpy old man who doesn’t like talking to people, who isn’t particularly nice, and who believes the world is full of idiots. On top of that, we’re given the usual backstory for this character: parents, death, and emotional withdrawal from the world.
Fortunately, Backman slides Ove into the background—or at least presents him as part of a larger ensemble of characters in the neighborhood. And, through a series of alternating chapters, we begin to find out a bit about Ove’s wife.
The story gets humming in the middle of the book, at which point we learn the story isn’t really about Ove at all. This isn’t a story about redeeming or changing Ove. Instead, this is the story of the complexities of communities, of how shared histories create deep ties that aren’t often seen by outsiders, and how small acts of kindness can help fight against the crushing bureaucracies that smother us throughout our lives.
Intimacy, when done correctly, creates an unbreakable love that carries us through even the darkest of times.
The book isn’t perfect (the bit about his too big heart was a bit on the nose), but as a writer (and reader) I’m okay with that idea. Backman has created a perfect little neighborhood with quirky little characters who make the right choices because that is the right thing to do. And, in that, we are given just a tiny glimpse of A Man Called Ove, who in the end was just a man trying to do what he thought was right for the people and world around him.
Other Books by Backman
- English translation Things My Son Needs to Know About the World
- English translation My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry
- English translation Britt-Marie Was Here
- And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer: A Novella
- The Deal of a Lifetime: A Novella
- Us Against You
- English Translation Anxious People