A Man Called Ove

One might say, “Like mother, like daughter” when it comes to what makes a good package. The card read, “Kathe selected this for our January Book Club. Mom, you can check off the ‘family member recommended’ box on the 2016 Reading Challenge and Dad, you’ll recognize yourself on page 140 especially (and other pages as well). You’ll both enjoy this.” In the package was A Man Called Ove.

I’ll briefly fill you in on finding Al on page 140. “When he was driving somewhere, he drew up schedules and plans and decided where they’d fill up and when they’d stop for coffee, all in the interest of making the trip as time efficient as possible. He studied maps and estimated exactly how long each leg of the journey would take . . .” You get the drift, and anybody who knows Al sees a kindred spirit in Ove. There were other similarities.

Gruffly, Ove avoids his neighbors only to help them out just this once with driving lessons, chauffeuring, or repair and building work. Then the curmudgeon lets his aggravation go, “He’d never understood the need to go around stewing on why things turned out the way they did. You are what you are and you do what you do, and that was good enough for Ove” – a philosophy Al shares.

When his neighbor’s wife opens the door, Ove sees and knows enough not to comment as she, “. . .wipes her eyes and blinks away the pain. As women of that generation do. As if they stood in the doorway every morning, determinedly driving sorrow out of the house with a broom.” Instead, he gives her something to do that gives momentary reprieve from her sorrow.

I’ll leave without comment my last similarity quote. “It is difficult to admit that one is wrong. Particularly when one has been wrong for a very long time. Sonja used to say that Ove had only admitted he was wrong on one occasion . . .”

Al gave up on the book and said, “I couldn’t get into it.” Whether he recognized himself in Ove, I don’t know. More likely, the problem was that the book does not begin at the beginning and travel straight to the end. While I loved the narrative that switched back and forth between past and present, I think Al and Ove would have admonished Fredrik Backman to start at the beginning and tell the story straight.

I loved every word. It’s hard to explain how a book with the main character making multiple attempts to commit suicide after his wife’s death (about the only way he is different from Al) could be so amusing – attempts always interrupted by a nuisance call from someone who needs him. I’ve passed the book along. At last count, five friends share my enthusiasm even if the mirror image of Al is not quite as clear as it was to Anna and me.