A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman-Book Club

A man called Ove and reading glasses

Another great book club meeting, but this time with mixed reviews for our latest read; A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman.

This book came highly recommended, but no members of book club gave it an all-star rating. We all felt similarly that there were aspects of it we didn’t like. In the end, however, we agreed that it was emotionally compelling.  Yes, we all cried. Some of us, a lot.

The Synopsis (available at GoodReads)

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

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.

The Review

I described A Man Called Ove this way – I disliked the beginning, but I liked the book.  All club members agreed that the beginning of the book, about the first six chapters, dwelled too heavily on the main character’s grumpy disposition. By chapter three I wanted to scream, OK I’ve got it, he’s a grouch, move on already.

I also found the premise of the story to be generally off-putting. I won’t give it away, but Ove’s mission throughout the novel was disturbing.

On a positive note, I enjoyed the writing. The way Backman struck so many emotionally chords was well done to say the least.  Personally, I connected with Ove’s struggle to rediscover purpose in his life.  I feel I am in the same boat with regard to my work and future.

I thought certain lines were beautifully written. For example:

“When she giggles she sounded the way Ove imagined champagne bubbles would have sounded if they were capable of laughter.”

“She stood…with his flowers…in that red cardigan of hers, making the rest of the world look as if it were made in grayscale.”

“He was a man of black and white. And she was of color. All the color he had.”

And this one made me laugh:

“The man behind the Plexiglas asks if he can “check out the card.” Ove looks at him as if they just met in a dark alley and he’s asked to “check out” Ove’s private parts.”

I am glad I read A Man Called Ove. I would recommend it with one caveat – it’s not for everyone. While it was clever at times, there were also some very predictable outcomes that I anticipated well before they happened.

So, I’ll say it was not bad, but not great.

Next up in March…

I am actually looking forward to reading a type of book I never have… a celebrity tell-all!

Leah Remini’s – Troublemaker – Surviving Hollywood and Scientology.

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5 years ago

I read this book too and I really liked it, it reminded me of a few characters in my own life, grumpy exterior with a kind heart. Also love book clubs as they encourage you to go beyond your own likes