31 December 2015

Books: A Man Called Ove By Fredrik Backman (2014)

“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 (especially for the people who can’t read the signs). 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 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, Ove’s very ordered life begins to unravel. “

The book had me at “curmudgeon”, something that I guess I’m kind of one. But while Ove reminds me of myself, he also reminds me of my grandfather, a man who seemed out of time as well. But Ove, in the book, is only 59 and is living in our modern world of the internet. But he can’t seem to understand why people can’t fix bicycles, or bleed radiators, or read signs that clearly state “vehicular traffic is prohibited in the residential area.” Then there is the cat, the one who shows up out of nowhere and continues to stare at Ove, as if he owed money to the feline.

Yes, A Man Called Ove is comical and heartwarming, as it features a vibrant woman named Parvaneh, a pregnant Iranian woman who tries her hardest not to dislike Ove (which, of course, irritates him to no end) who is right out of every Lifetime movie ever made, but Swedish author Fredrik Backman (translated by Henning Koch) also takes us on journey where we are made to think about who we are as humans, and how we want to live our lives. 

Also, as well, how we cope with loss, because Ove really is the epitome for those whom have tried to live a fair and steady life of doing what’s right, only to beset by many trials and tribulations. Over the years, he has been conned, ripped off and harassed. Saddest of all is the bus accident that left his wife, Sonja, the woman he adores more than anything in the world, paralyzed and their unborn child dead.  But our Volvo-loving curmudgeon is not that cranky as we are lead to believe –as it just takes Parvaneh and her family to reawaken Ove’s sense of doing the right thing.

It’s a quirky (but not in a bad way) and very charming novel. It’s has a deceptively simple premise that some may call too simple, but one I found to be perfect on this late December night.

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