A man called OVE by Fredrik Backman

“Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it’s often one of the great motivations for living. Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more fury. Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis. Others become so preoccupied with it that they go into the waiting room long before it has announced its arrival. We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.”

I picked up this book due to a Twitter thread of GoodReads asking readers what their favourite book for 2018 was and A Man called OVE appearing in most of the comments. Yeah, I know, majority rules! And I can say with my hand on my heart that this book has made me cry, made me laugh, and made me feel wholesome again.

OVE is your typical grumpy old man but underneath the surface, he is kind, determined and has a big heart (literally). His thoughts are that actions weigh more than words and he is true to his thoughts – doing more than talking.

“Men are what they are because of what they do. Not what they say.”

And when his thoughts drift towards suicide, it’s a question of principle.

“We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if’.”

Ove (pronounced ‘Oo-veh’) is a cantankerous, taciturn, inflexible man. He’s a veritable stick in the mudslide of human advancement, futilely rebelling against it. He thinks himself surrounded by idiots, with people always disappointing him. Over the years he has been conned, ripped off and harrassed, mainly by bureaucrats (“the men in the white shirts”), whom he despises. He is a man who lives life fairly and squarely but finds himself beset by injustice and bad luck.
At 59, he’s lost his job as well as the love of his life, his wife Sonja. He misses Sonja so much that sometimes he can’t bear existing in his own body.
This love shines through in his weekly visits to the cemetery where he talks to her grave and puts new flowers in, where he updated the entire furniture in their house to make it wheelchair accessible and how he wrote letter after letter to every official he could find asking for an answer.

“Loving someone is like moving into a house. At first you fall in love with all the new things, amazed every morning that all this belongs to you, as if fearing that someone would suddenly come rushing in through the door to explain that a terrible mistake had been made, you weren’t actually supposed to live in a wonderful place like this. Then over the years the walls become weathered, the wood splinters here and there, and you start to love that house not so much because of all its perfections, but rather for its imperpections. You get to know all the nooks and crannies. How to avoid getting the key caught in the lock when it’s cold outside. Which of the floorboards flex slightly when one steps on them or exactly how to open the wardrobe doors without them creaking. These are the little secrets that make it your home.”

His decision to follow Sonja into the afterlife has been in the back of his mind ever since he was laid off and he found he had nothing else to do other than the routine rounds around his neighborhood. He plans his death with the same dedication he tackles everything in life – making sure that he shoots his brains out in the smallest room of the house, making sure the cat is fed, ensuring there would be wills and papers set for anyone that finds him.
His longing for Sonja is so strong that every chapter or so we see it shining either through pain-filled nostalgia or through snippets of their early life together.

She just smiled, said that she loved books more than anything, and started telling him excitedly what each of the ones in her lap was about. And Ove realised that he wanted to hear her talking about the things she loved for the rest of his life.

I liked the writing, the dialogue, the silly cat which follows the man like a trusted companion everywhere and even the “life of” section intermingled with current events.

I think the book could have been called “A week in the life of Ove” and it wouldn’t have been too far off the mark. And guess what? They’re making a movie now!

“An inspiring affirmation of love for life and acceptance of people for their essence and individual quirks. A Man Called Ove is a perfect selection for book clubs. It’s well written and replete with universal concerns. It lacks violence and profanity, is life-affirming and relationship-driven. The book is bittersweet, tender, often wickedly humorous and almost certain to elicit tears. I contentedly wept my way through a box of tissues when I first read the novel and again when I savored it for a second time.” Source: BookBrowse.com

Totally agree. There’s nothing bad about this book. It makes you feel good about yourself. It has down-to-earth characters and a plot that reminded me of Paulo Cuelho’s – Veronica Decides to Die. It’s truly a treasure to read.

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