One of the most interesting and heartfelt novels I have ever read is a novel called, A Man Called Ove, written by Fredrik Backman. The novel was published in English in 2013 and was a number one bestseller in his homeland of Sweden (Simon and Schuster.com).
Although I read this novel at the end of September (2015), I waited to write a review on the novel simply to soak in all of its goodness. I had purchased the novel at a bookstore in Oregon and was intrigued how a fairly new writer was already a bestselling novelist. Since I was soon to be an author myself, I was curious at the success of the novel.
Once I started reading the novel, I couldn’t put it down. At the time, I didn’t exactly know what intrigued me or inspired me to keep reading the book. All I knew was that it had a story line that kept pulling me back for more. The descriptions, many subtle in their placement within the novel, were so simple yet powerfully written. The words captured the essence of Backman’s heartfelt intent as he wrote the novel.
In my English class, I present “book talks.” This is where I share what I am currently reading at the time with “my kids.” While I was explaining a section of A Man Called Ove with the kids, I watched their faces as I explained the characters and the setting. I read several sections from the book and in that moment something happened. It was one of those moments that you never forget: you’re reading to your students and they sit awestruck, really contemplating the meaning of the words.
It was what I read to them that made them really stop and think about the main character, Ove, and his plight in the story. Ove is described as an older gentleman who spends his days with the love of his life,Sonja. One of the quotes I read them began,
“There’s a photo on the wall beside the front door, of Ove and Sonja. It’s almost forty years old…She’s suntanned, wearing a red dress, and looking so happy. Ove is standing next to her, holding her hand. He sits there for what must be an hour, just staring at the photo. Of all the imaginable things he most misses about her,the thing he really wishes he could do again is hold her hand in his. She had a way of folding her index finger into his palm, hiding it inside. And he always felt that nothing in the world was impossible when she did that. Of all the things he could miss, that’s what he misses most” (Backman 69).
This quote exemplifies just one of the moments in the novel when we are drawn to Ove for his love to his wife, Sonja.
However, there were other instances when I felt like I wanted to strangle Ove for his drastic, almost illogical reactions to situations surrounding him; however, after the reader learns of his upbringing, it was apparent that there were many ingrained traits which Ove possessed which simply weren’t going to change. The pattern and order of his life is like his religion and to change it would mean the world was going to end. In seeing life through his eyes, we know that he is destined to do some of these crazy mundane stunts, yet we feel empathy for him because he is simply being himself.
A quote which demonstrates Ove’s lack of change reads,
“Now Ove is standing in front of his wife with two plants. Because it was a question of principle.
‘There was no way I was going to pay three Kronor,’ rails Ove, his eyes looking down into the gravel.
Ove’s wife often quarrels with Ove because he’s always arguing about everything.
But Ove isn’t bloody arguing. He just thinks right is right. Is that such an unreasonable attitude to life?” (Backman 33).
The quote above definitely shows Ove’s stubbornness in certain cases. However, as in any compelling novel, there is always transformation of some sort and this definitely occurs in the character of Ove. Without giving away the ending, we see Ove as a man truly transformed by the power of relationship and love. Those people surrounding us can be powerful motivators, and those people who take the time to simply care about each other make us feel part of something greater than ourselves. Love is a theme which transpires throughout the seams of the novel. It is the binding force that makes this novel truly something to be cherished.
After reading through each section of this novel, I remember putting the book down and just contemplating Backman’s craft. I would keep thinking about the words that tugged at my heart in certain places and made me connect to my own life — experiences with love, loss, and hope. I marveled at the complexity yet the genuineness of such craft to make a reader feel this way each time. I even went back to certain pages to find those words which really left their imprint on me, then I’d say, yes, that’s the line. So simple, yet speaks the truth.
Yes, this is the one thing which I can say made me keep coming back for more. It was the meaning behind the carefully chosen diction, and the subtle way in which thought and insight made this book reach out to me.
Now, here I am bringing it to you. Go to the bookstore, purchase the novel, sit in your favorite reading chair, and enjoy.