This post of A Man Called Ove by author Fredrik Backman has been adapted from two previous posts. First is the spoiler free review followed by the spoiler full review and summary.
Spoiler Free Review
A Man Called Ove is a gift. It’s the kind of book that will hit you right in all the feels in all the right ways.
Fredrik Backman writes beautifully. He takes realistic characters and binds them together with just enough sap to get you right in the heartstrings.
Ove is an old grump who is outwardly rude and will certainly remind you of at least one person you’ve known closely. On the surface he is probably someone you choose to avoid. He’s extremely rude and says things you definitely don’t agree with. This man is also the sort to harshly judge you for not knowing how to drive a manual transmission.
Over the course of the novel we get to know Ove through his current adventure as well as flashbacks. We see how he became the man he is and why the man he is has so much value.
Everyone has a story that gets them to where they are. Ove’s is fascinating and is guaranteed to bring out sympathy for him regardless of his poor behavior in his older age.
His story is woven together with a mismatched group of his neighbors all from their own various background stories and personality types. By the end of the novel they will be a big somewhat functional family.
How they get to that (mostly) happy ending is entertaining, humorous, relatable, and enviable. I enjoyed seeing how all of their personalities could work together with more than just a little effort.
A Man Called Ove is an optimistic book. It assumes greatness within most people. It reminds the reader to assume greatness in others until absolutely proven otherwise. This is a lesson we all need over and over and over again in life. It’s very easy to forget and very damaging when we do.
Ove’s story encourages the reader to take another look at that old crank in their own lives. My personal experience would mostly be with my step-father. That whole shtick with the manual transmission still kind of irks me. (Then teach me why don’t ya?!)
But Ove helps us take a step back and remind ourselves that everyone is more than they appear to be and not everyone shows emotions in the same way. Ove shows love by building things for the people in his life, things he knows they would love. Maybe he doesn’t say the words but the gesture means even more than that.
Be patient with the ones close to you that you feel you don’t understand. They have a story that might be more similar to your own than you realize. And do yourself a favor by reading this book. It’s exactly the kind of feel-good book we could all use during extremely distressing times.
A Man Called Ove Summary
Ove is every old curmudgeon you’ve ever known. He’s blunt, dismissive, maybe a little racist, thinks you’re lazy, and might be totally misunderstood.
A Man Called Ove will make you fall in love with this old bastard. The book starts with Ove yelling at a poor sales clerk and the reader immediately knows this man. He’s a bitter old crank and you would rather not interact with him if you can help it.
Over the course of the book I found myself easily falling for Ove and his hidden sensitivity. The writing is absolutely beautiful and portrays this protagonist with more layers than you could ever see from his surface. Everyone has a story and Ove’s is heartbreaking.
Ove has been forced into retirement. It’s easy to see how someone who finds themselves suddenly without a daily purpose could flounder a bit.
Then we find out that his wife also passed away relatively recently and that he loved her more than he has ever loved anything in the entire world. He cannot move on without her and finds himself helplessly depressed.
So he does what anyone who can no longer see the future does, he attempts to kill himself. As he hangs himself we get the first of many flashbacks which explain how Ove came to be the man he is.
When we return to present day Ove, on the floor with a broken noose around his neck, we find him complaining about how nobody can even make a decent rope nowadays. He is constantly complaining about proper craftsmanship and work ethic.
Several suicide attempts are interrupted in one way or another. His new neighbor interrupts him attempting to gas himself in his garage. She is a pregnant middle easterner with a skinny white husband who will begrudgingly become his closest friend before the book is over.
For another suicide attempt Ove visits the train station and intends to throw himself onto the tracks. Instead he witnesses a man have a seizure and fall onto the tracks, he saves the man’s life instead of ending his own.
A longer flashback brings us to Ove and Sonja’s honeymoon in Spain. We see how Ove spent time inadvertently doing charity work, helping locals build fences and the like, just because he thought they were doing it wrong. He considers them incompetent and they think he’s a hero. It’s one time a language barrier actually helped relations.
Unfortunately, their marvelous trip ends with a bus crash which kills their unborn child and paralyzes Sonja. When they return home they are both heartbroken for their loss and Ove channels it into rebuilding their entire home to be wheelchair accessible so that Sonja will never have to leave.
Ove shows love through projects. He is not great with words or emotions so if he builds something for someone it instead says everything he cannot.
The book then describes an old friendship of Ove’s with a man named Rune. Rune and Ove are very similar and went from being best friends to mortal enemies. Now Rune has Alzheimer’s and is about to be taken away to a home against Rune’s wife’s wishes.
Ove does not want Rune to be taken away but also still wishes to join his wife in heaven so he plans to shoot himself. As he has the gun aimed a neighborhood kid breaks into his house.
Ove considers shooting the intruders but holds off long enough to see who it is. The kid is trying to find his friend a place to stay since he just came out as gay and subsequently was kicked out of his home. Ove takes the young gay kid in.
Ove finds a new purpose in protecting this kid, Rune, and a mangy cat that also came into the picture. Ove doesn’t like cats but Sonja did so he reluctantly feeds it tuna every day.
The whole neighborhood teams up to beat the bureaucrats trying to take Rune away. Bureaucrats have been Ove’s real arch nemeses his whole life and he finally takes one down.
We then come full circle as Ove is back in the store from the first chapter of the book. He’s trying to buy an expensive tablet for the neighbor’s daughter’s birthday. He wants her to have the best.
After the birthday party Ove runs to stop a burglar and has a heart attack in the street. At the hospital the doctor explains that Ove’s heart is simply too big.
On the nose for sure but this book is so sweet who cares.
We flash forward to 4 years later. Ove has been living happily with all of the neighborhood folks and the neighbor finds him having passed away in his sleep. He has left everything to her and the children of the neighborhood. She starts a charity for orphans in his name and over 300 people show up to his funeral.
A Man Called Ove is the kind of book that you simply need to read every once in a while. It’s saccharine sweet but written so beautifully it’s not as cheesy as it could be. Only lovely and heartfelt.
If you don’t fall in love with Ove by the end then I’m not sure you have any feeling left. His relationship with his late wife describes a love for the ages and his deeply felt although not outwardly expressed love for his new friends should make anyone wish to have an Ove in their own lives.
It’s also the kind of book that makes me want to read everything else the author has written. This is my first book by Fredrik Backman so I look forward to all the catching up I have to do.
I solidly recommend this book to anyone at any time. It’ll just warm you up inside.
5/5 cats 🐈🐈🐈🐈🐈
If you liked A Man Called Ove you might also like They Both Die at the End.
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Buy it here: A Man Called Ove: A Novel