Book reviews

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Rating: 5 out of 5.

For the record, this book gets the blog’s first’s five stars. And it’s well deserved!

I started reading this a few months ago, but was unable to get past chapter 3 for many reasons. Primarily, I was not in the mood for grumpy, old Ove and what he has to offer, so I decided to put it off and go back to my go-to genre instead–romance and romcoms. But having been through my fair share of romance novels in the past couple of months, the plots and tropes are becoming predictable, and I was not enjoying it the way I usually do. So, I decided it’s time to take some time off my favorite genre and revisit Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove.

Ove is a persistent and reserved curmudgeon. He stands firm in his beliefs, remains consistent in his routines, and does everything in his power to do what is right. Through and through, Ove is an upright man. Brought up by an honest, hardworking father who then becomes Ove’s exemplary role model, Ove only takes his due–nothing more, nothing less. As a child he knew they were not rich, but his father ensured that his needs were met and that they were not wanting. As a young man, his father taught him the value of hard work as he watched him repair car engines day in and day out. He was taught to protect one’s integrity, and become the sort of man who never tells about another person’s actions, whatever they may be. Ove was taught that a man is what he does, and not what he says. So Ove and his father bonded in companionable silence, and sometimes through their common interest–cars.

When his father died, Ove went through some of the most difficult times. He had to drop out of school, learn his father’s job so he can work off the advance salary his father was given prior to his passing, get another job in construction so he can teach himself how to build houses, and when he finally learned, build his own house which was then burned down by jealous hooligans who were either working for corporate maniacs desperate to have him sell his piece of land obstructing a major housing development or had problems with him in the past, and even lost money in a housing insurance fraud. Whatever it is that Ove went through, he gritted his teeth, rolled up his sleeves, and simply persisted on. Not even a longed-for military service career which was then cut short due to a heart condition diagnosis nor getting fired from his job because of a false accusation would stop Ove from living life as he always did–simple, just, right.

And it was all worth, especially when he met the love of his life, Sonja, on the train as he was finishing his shift as a night cleaner. Every day since laying eyes on her, Ove went out of his way (literally!) to keep Sonja company. Even after they had their first date, became an item, met Sonja’s father, got pregnant, and then got married, Ove made sure he remains to be the best man for Sonja. This is just his personality, how he is built. There were no gray areas–he was all in or not at all. And with Sonja, Ove only felt love, even when he’s tired or annoyed or is having a bad day. Sonja loved Ove, too, all too much and without reservations. So when Sonja died six months ago, Ove stopped living. He knows in his heart that life in this world will never be the same again. It’s too lonely and too painful without the only other person who understands him. Ove is determined to see Sonja again, be with her again. And so Ove’s quest begins.

I love reading about Ove and Sonja’s story. Though there’s definitely more heartbreaking bits that I cannot narrate for you. But trust me, you have to read it. I was bawling my eyes out in one of the earlier chapters, and I think that’s not even a quarter of the book in. There were also plenty of humorous scenes, and they mostly relate to Ove’s present. It’s mostly the flashbacks and his obvious longing for Sonja that really breaks my heart every time.

I give this book 5 stars. Even now, as I am writing, I think about the entire read and my eyes start to water. My heart hurts for Ove, but I am also just thankful that I had the chance to read his story and know about his life, how he affected other people and changed their lives. I know he is a fictional character, but, for me, he resembles every old person you can come across–with their many life stories and unbelievable experiences. He can remind you of a grandparent (or a parent) who you love and miss the most. Or maybe a mentor or a friend who’s grumpy on the outside, but is a big teddy bear on the inside. There’s not an easy way to deal with loss; it still baffles me. But Ove gives us glimpses of his grief and pain, and eventually takes us in his unique journey of finding reasons to live anew each day. It’s quite ironic as he aims to do the opposite, but it’s become a heartfelt story I will never forget.

I highly recommend this book. It will teach you about life, about love, about family and friendships, about loyalty and persistence, about loss, grief and pain, about the secret backstories as to why some people behave the way they do, about what’s really important in life–the people around us.

I would always carry with me the lessons I gained from this book. I really hope you get the chance to read this too.

  • Title: A Man Called Ove
  • Author: Fredrik Backman
  • Year published: 2015
  • Publisher: Sceptre
  • Total number of pages: 294
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-444-77581-5


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