Man Called Ove (Review)

Labels: A Lighter Touch

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A Man Called Ove
Fredrik Backman, 2012 (Engl., 2014)
352 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
August 2014

Ove is a 59-year-old misanthrope. He's ornery, overbearing, and hard to like. But we keep reading because Fredrik Bachman keeps us laughing—and because there's a bit of truth in Ove's rants...and a bit of each of us in his self-righteousness.

But Ove is done with life—all he wants to do is end his part in it. How hard can this be? Very hard, apparently, especially if you're beset with neighbors who interrupt you at the most inopportune moments, like when you're trying to hang yourself.

As the story unfolds, we learn more of Ove's past. It's been a life of loss, of unpleasant white-shirted beaucrats, and unfairly apportioned blame. But as his father once told him: "We're not the sort of men who tell tales about what others do" even when the blame falls on them. "We're not the sort of men" becomes Ove's mantra for living a life in which integrity is what matters most.

By the same token, when a neighbor needs help—a trip to the hospital, a driving lesson, or a broken radiator—Ove feels impelled to step up. And lately he's been called to step up more than he'd like: Ove is surrounded by very needy people.

Backman gives us a terrific cast of characters who, over time, draw out Ove's buried humanity. I'll say no more so as not to give away the surprises...some that come fairly early on.

Although the ending is predictable, the fun is getting there. This is an easy read, a funny, delightful tale of things that go awry and are set right again. Laugh and enjoy...and decide which part of yourselves you see in Ove.

See our Reading Guide for A Man Called Ove.

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