“Sonja said once that to understand men like Ove and Rune, one had to understand from the very beginning that they were men caught in the wrong time. Men who only required a few simple things from life, she said. A roof over their heads, a quiet street, the right make of car, and a woman to be faithful to. A job where you had a proper function. A house where things broke at regular intervals, so you always had something to tinker with.”
And that’s Ove. For him, everything is black and white. Although Fredrik Backman, the author of A Man Called Ove, often says that Ove doesn’t think much, the grumpy old man — in truth, not so old, for he is 59 — has an opinion about everything under the sun. Ove doesn’t understand why would one go to a restaurant, when one can make mashed potatoes, sauce, and beans at home. He hates this generation because they can’t fix their own cars and houses. He loathes technology because iPad doesn’t come with a keyboard. He despises his neighbours because one lets her dog take a leak on his pavement, and another drives in the residential area. Ove’s best friend Rune becomes his enemy because he buys a car that Ove detests. Thus, Ove always lives in a straitjacket.
But, Ove’s wife Sonja is all that Ove’s not. She loves reading, teaching, making friends, and gives her heart to many an abstract thing. While their friends don’t understand how Sonja falls in love him, she has her beautiful reasons for marrying this curmudgeon. Their love story is heartwarming, and their life… utterly heartbreaking.
Ove wants to kill himself after he becomes alone, and after he is asked to retire. (No, I didn’t spoil that for you.) But, his neighbours have other plans for him. They squeeze themselves into his life, and offer him purposes to breathe. Ove observes that his neighbours are imbeciles. They are hilarious and adorable all the same.
We all have met Ove. We all have been irked by his grumpiness. But, Backman gently reminds us that there is a story behind every Ove whom we meet. A feel-good, and a moving story at that.
A Man Called Ove is a cute book that makes you laugh out loud, and shed a bucket of tears in quick successions. It’s generously peopled with curious characters — an Iranian pregnant woman who is incredibly kind and generous, a cat named Ernest (named after Hemingway), a three-year old girl who Ove calls ‘grammatically challenged natural disaster’, an obese young fellow who often uses the words ‘cool’ and ‘uncool’… I love all of them. They add colours to the book. Because Ove is all black and white, you see. 😉
Also, I want to surface from my shell once in a while, and say hello to my neighbours. Looks like they might not be that bad after all. 😉
I will also read Backman’s other book My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. I think he won’t let me down.
Some more favourite passages from A Man Called Ove:
“Every morning for the almost four decades they had lived in this house, Ove had put on the coffee percolator, using exactly the same amount of coffee as any other morning, and then drunk a cup with his wife. One measure for each cup, and one extra for the jug – no more, no less. People didn’t know how to do that any more, brew some proper coffee. In the same way as nowadays nobody could write with a pen. Because now it was all computers and espresso machines. And where was the world going if people couldn’t even write or brew a bit of coffee?”
“She laughed and laughed and laughed until the vowels were rolling across the walls and floors, as if they meant to do away with the laws of time and space. It made Ove feel as if his chest was slowly rising out of the ruins of a collapsed house after an earthquake. It gave his heart space to beat again.”
“And time is a curious thing. Most of us only life for the time that lies right ahead of us. A few days, weeks, years. One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead. And when time no longer lies ahead of one, other things have to be lived for. Memories, perhaps. Afternoons in the sun with someone’s hand clutched in one’s own. The fragrance of flowerbeds in fresh bloom. Sundays in a cafe. Grandchildren, perhaps. One find a way of living for the sake of someone else’s future.”