Wednesday, August 13, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Thanks to my library’s New Fiction newsletter, I requested A Man Called Ove, a debut novel by Swedish blogger and columnist Fredrik Backman. This is sweet, contemporary, "book-group" fiction along the lines of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.

Ove is a middle-aged man who has never had much use for people and who doesn’t like change. He has been set in his ways since he was a child. His life has been hard, but he has gotten by in a very self-reliant fashion and he doesn’t understand why others can’t do the same. The only person he has ever loved, or so he believes, was his wife, Sonja. But Sonja died six months earlier and Ove is determined to join her.

However, on the day he has appointed to end his life, new neighbors upset his plans by backing over his mailbox with their moving van. Ove is introduced to a quite pregnant and forceful Iranian woman, her incompetent husband (the "Lanky One"), and their two daughters, ages 3 and 7. Against his will, Ove is forced to become useful to them and, before he knows what has hit him, he realizes there are a few more things that need straightening out before he can go be with his wife.

Ove’s story unfolds in a series of short chapters that reveal his backstory: the tale of his courtship and marriage to Sonja, the good and the bad, as well as the ups and downs of the one friendship he had with a neighbor that soured over the years. These chapters alternate with the story moving forward, where Ove’s continuing attempts to kill himself are thwarted by the various needs of others.

Although Ove is not a likeable character early on, he becomes first understandable and then admirable and finally sympathetic. The vignettes work to charm the reader. Although some of the situations are a bit over the top, and some are a little too predictable, it isn’t really the specifics of the plotting that carry this story but rather the loveliness of the interactions of the characters. If you’re looking for a warm novel with a "feel-good" sentiment, this is an entertaining read.

1 comment:

  1. I've had this ARC on my nightstand for ages 'cause it sounds like other books i've loved (Major Pettigrew, as you mentioned, but also The Tower the Zoo & the Tortoise). Thanks for reviewing it and bring it back to my attention!