The BUZZ: This book, born out of a character a Swedish blogger first introduced on his blog, became a European sensation and is now an international bestseller.
The GIST: Ove (rhymes with mover) is a curmudgeon. He’s grumpy about other people, other people’s habits, other people’s incompetence, and even other people’s choice of vehicles. He’s decided to end it all to escape this worldly hell, but the universe has other plans. Time and time again his attempts are thwarted by…other people. The hard exterior Ove presents begins to show cracks. We learn that he is a good man, a kind man, and a man who loves nothing more than helping others. We learn what a devoted husband he has been, and he surprises us with his kindness toward strangers. He reminds us through his actions that we can and should treat each other better. First, though, we have to stop assuming we have other people figured out.
The WRITING: Charming. This is a gentle book, heartwarming, funny, and poignant. The story unfolds slowly, and the bits and pieces of Ove’s past come into focus a little at a time. Backman redraws our image of Ove constantly through elegant dialogue and a deceptively simple plot. Ove’s history of loss explains the man, but Backman does not let him off so easily; we can be redeemed by our connection to other people, and usually we are. We can still be cranky about it, though, and Ove is cranky – yet lovable – to the end.
BUY or BORROW: Buy – a perfect book to gift to someone else. It’s tough out there in the big, bad world these days, and A Man Called Ove is uplifting and inspiring.
If you want something done you have to do it yourself, as usual, Ove confirms to himself as he steers his steps alone towards the sales assistant. And not until Ove roars, “Have you been frontally lobotomized or what?!” to the young man who’s trying to show him the shop’s range of portable computers does Jimmy come hurrying to his aid. And then it’s not Ove but rather the shop assistant who needs to be aided.