FTS Book Club: ‘A Man Called Ove’

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The Book

A Man Called Ove

 

The Author:

Fredrik Backman

 

What It’s About:

Ove is the definition of a curmudgeon. He wants nothing to do with anyone, and is especially irritated by the hooligans in his neighborhood who leave their bikes out at night and don’t clean up after their dogs. He sticks to a strict routine and does not have time to waste worrying about other people’s problems. His is the house you’d likely pass by while averting your eyes, just to avoid any confrontation.

Under that thorny exterior is a story of sadness and loneliness, of deep loss. One morning a young couple with children move in next door and upends Ove’s whole world. After accidentally running over Ove’s mailbox, the couple becomes a thorn in Ove’s side, constantly in need of help watching their children, advice of how to work on their house or watch their cats. All Ove wants to be is left alone, and all the couple does is show up at his front door, day after day.

Through a series of unlikely friendships, Ove’s past is slowly explained, revealing a deeply complicated man who has loved the truest, strongest love and has felt the deepest, sincerest pain.

 

Thoughts:

I have recommended “Ove” to every single person I have met who knows how to read. The story begins with Ove standing on a box, a noose tied around his neck, ready — desperate, really — to say goodbye to this world. And then there’s a knock at the door.

At first I wasn’t sure I’d like this book. It jumped right into a very heavy topic, and at the time I was looking for a lighthearted read. I felt uncomfortable reading the first few pages, like who wants to read a book about an old man who just wants to die? But when Ove is interrupted by a chatty, obnoxious woman at the front door demanding he help her take care of her children — and the demands for help kept coming — I couldn’t put it down.

Each character is so well developed I swear I’ve met each and every one of them in real life. Ove is that odd neighbor whose house you walk by and quicken you pace when it’s dark out. The couple next door is the adorable family you either babysit for or avoid at all costs (due to their loud, messy children). The skinny blonde walking her tiny dog is that woman two houses down that you love to hate. The nerdy teenager who spends all day playing on his computer is… well, just that. It’s as if Fredrik Backman walked down your neighborhood, took snapshots of your neighbors and then explored their stories in a Scandinavian setting. FYI everything seems just a bit cuter in Sweden.

I was not expecting to become emotionally invested in this book, but it stuck with me for weeks after I finished it. The way Ove learns so much more about the world he wished to leave after hitting rock bottom is deeply moving. You’ll laugh (I literally laughed out loud), you’ll cry, you’ll appreciate your curmudgeon neighbors for who they truly are beneath that tough exterior.

 

FTS Rating:

10/10

 

Gillian Smith

Gillian is a videographer by day and a writer by night. A native of Boston, MA, she is a loyal Red Sox fan, company member of DanceWorks Boston, and lover of baked goods. She does not eat ketchup.

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