Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Man Called Ove (Does anyone know how to pronounce that name? It's Swedish) by Fredrik Backman

DARN IT!  SHOOT!  I was convinced that this was going to be a nice read, but I was wrong. Let me give you a little chronology.  The book is 337 pages.  The 1st 60 were good.  I enjoyed the story.  I was thinking 3/4.  Nothing wrong with that.  Then the next 150 pages picked up considerably.  I went right from a 3/4, slid into a 3.25/4, and then landed at a 3.5/4.  Also good.  Good enough to hit my rec table.  The next 50 pages after that were even better.  Now I'm thinking 3.75/4.  Wow!  Uh, not so fast.  The last 87 pages were crazy good.  I really spent all of those pages smiling, laughing, and crying, often all at the same time.  I just can't believe how good it ended up being.  With it's cast of quirky characters, ages 3 to 60, and a very unusual main protagonist, it was simply charming as all get out. And the final rating is (no drum roll necessary) 4/4.

I could spend the entire review talking about how clever the writing is.  And I will give you some examples.  But something happened in this book that has only happened to me one time before.  Wait for it...I actually got enjoyment reading about an animal!  Are you shocked?  Me too.  The only other time that happened to me was Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain.  In that book, the narrator is a dog.  This one is similar because the animal, a cat, is a central character not much different from the humans that populate Ove's neighborhood.  Whoops, sorry.  I forgot to give you a synopsis of the book.  Here it is.

At first sight, Ove is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet, a curmudgeon with staunch principles. strict routines, and a short fuse.  People think him bitter, and he thinks himself surrounded by idiots.  
Ove's well-ordered, solitary world gets a shake-up one November morning with the appearance of new neighbors, a chatty young couple and their two boisterous daughters, who announce their arrival by accidentally flattening Ove's mailbox with their U-Haul.  What follows is a heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unlikely friendships, and a community's unexpected reassessment of the one person they thought they had all figured out.  

I promised you some examples of Backman's writing.  The 1st one includes one of many scenes with the cat.
1.  "Ove stomped forward.  The cat stood up.  Ove stopped.  They stood there measuring up to each other for a few moments, like two potential troublemakers in a small-town bar. Ove considered throwing one of his clogs at it.  The cat looked as if it regretted not bringing its own clogs to lob back."
Here are some other great analogies:
2.  "The sun is just up; it shines obstinately into his eyes like a child who has just been given a flashlight."
3.   "...the train approaching so slowly that it's as if it's being pulled along by two decrepit oxen."
4.  Here's another one about the cat:  "...the cat is sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor.  It sports a disgruntled expression, as if Ove owes it money.  Ove stares back at it with a suspicion normally reserved for a cat that has rung his doorbell with a Bible it its paws, like a Jehovah's Witness."

I can't list all of the characters that come into Ove's life.  But let me say this.  There is a great love story in A Man Called Ove.  And it's not the kind you typically see.  And, as the blurb from the back of the book tries to say, not every seemingly hard-hearted person is actually hard-hearted.  You will need to read this book to know what I'm talking about.


  1. I LOVED this book! Funny, touching and not at all predictable. My husband listened to the audio book (he also loved it!) and said the pronunciation is "Uv" (short u sound).

  2. Thanks for the pronunciation. I was giving it a long o. Close, but I would rather say it in my head correctly.

  3. I thought this story was great too - the writing, the characters, you name it. Everyone I've recommended it to has loved it as well.

    1. I can't believe how emotionally invested I became with so many of the characters. I'm going to pick up his 2nd book and get it into my TBR pile right away. (And then the 3rd one after that!)

  4. It's pronounced "Ooveh" similar to the German name Uwe.