Staff Review – A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Have you ever waited to read a book for so long, you’ve built up the story in your head so much that it almost feels like you have read it? That’s how I felt as I began “A Man Called Ove”. I’ve been hearing about this book for years – the story of an old curmudgeon whose heart is opened by some new people in his life. That very basic plot is all I knew of the story, but I’ve been hearing good things for so long, I felt like I had already experienced it myself. Fredrik Backman’s story of Ove has delighted readers for roughly 10 years now. The novel tells the story of Ove, an older gentleman who has gone through a life of hardships and sorrows and has come out of it a bit bitter and very alone. When new neighbours pull into the area, it is the beginning of a new Ove, or rather, one that had been there all along.

Before I’d even opened the book, I imagined Ove as Carl from the Disney Pixar film “Up!”. Even once I began and discovered that Ove is only 59 years old, I still couldn’t get this image out of my head. Carl, like Ove, likes his routine and to not be disturbed. Both also have a backstory that explains why these “grumpy old men” are the way that they are. It was difficult to picture a younger man in Ove’s place, but I did my best. As we learn more about Ove’s past and see his progression in the present, I warmed up to the character more and more – just like the people in Ove’s life. Ove comments a few times that not everyone needs to be smiley and cheerful all the time, and I think this is true. Ove is never false about his feelings, and has lived a life full of sadness and loss. We all process loss differently, and Ove is no different from the rest of us. It is not always graceful and easy – Ove shows us how grief and loss is often lonely and can cause us to push away from our friends and family.

Fredrik Backman is a Swedish writer, and this story has been translated from the original Swedish into English. As such, there are a few times that there are some words spelled differently than we here in Canada would be used to – such as “tyres” instead of “tires”. I did enjoy reading this translated work as it gave a nice perspective of some cultural aspects of Sweden that I wouldn’t otherwise know about. The side characters in the story, including Sonja, Rune, Jimmy, Adrian and Parvaneh all really added to Ove’s story and learning more about them as the novel went on was fascinating. It reminded me of how so many people contribute to our story – sometimes without us even realizing it. This story of found families, grumpy old men, love, loss and more is a must-read for every reader! There is also a Swedish film adaptation, as well as the recent A Man Called Otto which features a few changes, but the same story at heart. Be sure to pick up Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove today!