Book Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Bakman

Another book review because I’ve only been postponing this for weeks.

A few weeks ago, I discovered Fredrik Bakman’s dramedy, A Man Called Ove. It’s been around since 2013 in Swedish before it was translated in 2014. There’s even a movie about it (in Swedish) but Tom Hanks just bought the rights to it, and so it will be a Hollywood movie very soon.

I don’t know about you but please don’t wait for the movie. Get the book. Borrow it from your library and read it first. I guarantee you that the book will be better. If you like audiobooks, I highly recommend listening to the audio version superbly narrated by George Newbern. For one thing, the audio version taught me that Ove is pronounced “Oo-va.” (I actually dated a Dane whose middle name was Ove and turns out, I’d been pronouncing it wrong all that time and I suspect he may have tried to correct me a few times. But that’s a story for another day.)

Anyway, A Man Called Ove is the story of, well, a curmudgeon who’s all about routine and predictability. He patrols the housing development where he’s lived for over forty years, walking around to inspect the area first thing in the morning, writing down the plate numbers of cars parked in the overnight parking area to make sure they don’t overstay their welcome, and locking bikes in the storage shed because they’re not supposed to be outdoors according to the rules.

His life is pretty much predictable until his new neighbors move in, accidentally mowing down his mailbox with their U-Haul. From then on, his life becomes quite interesting especially since no one leaves him alone. There’s always something going on, detracting poor Ove from what needs to be done time and time again.

There are Saabs, too (yes, the car)… and a cat.

Ove stomped forward. The cat stood up. Ove stopped. They stood there measuring each other up 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.

There’s so much to this multi-layered story that I can’t and won’t spoil it for you. You simply have to read/listen to it. I laughed and cried through the whole thing and am now going to hunt down the hardcover for Christmas because, gosh darn it, I’m going to reread it again and again.

So my verdict, of course, five stars all the way.

From the book’s description:

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others. “If there was an award for ‘Most Charming Book of the Year,’ this first novel by a Swedish blogger-turned-overnight-sensation would win hands down” (Booklist, starred review).

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