Title: A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Length: 337 pages
Publisher: Atria Books
Publish Date: July 15, 2014
(Original in Swedish - August 27, 2012)
Death, Illness, Miscarriage,
Homophobia, Suicide Attempts,
So this was the November book for the Pastries & Paperbacks Book Club at my local library, but of course I didn’t end up finishing in time so here we are. Also, I didn’t even get to go to the meeting because I had another meeting that I was facilitating that night so I didn’t want to be late to my own meeting. So no recap in this one, although I heard that the book club meeting went well, so that’s good news! I finally got through it even though for some reason I kept falling asleep while I was reading it. (I blame that on my dogs. They are just way too comfortable to not want to sleep with all the time).
- Well if Sammie liked it, then I’ll give it a chance. Just for her.
- I feel like he has some sort of disability. Maybe OCD (not extreme like most people think) and possibly autism? Not sure but I’d have to check.
- I don’t even think he really comes off as mean. I think people just don’t understand how logical he can be.
- I’m assuming this is why people compare Ove to Eleanor Oliphant.
Just because you aren’t dead, doesn’t mean you don’t stop living
This whole book is basically about how Ove wants to end his life physically so that he can be reunited with his wife Sonja, who ends up dying from cancer. It’s seriously heartbreaking, and I see my grandma in Ove a little bit, except she’s never tried to kill herself. But when my grandpa died, my grandma found it very hard to keep going every so often. I remember me talking to her on the phone once after I moved away from Guam – I was with her on Guam for like five years and I would see her every day, help her run her errands and go take her out to eat and explore new restaurants and stuff – and she told me that she was tired, and just didn’t feel like being alive anymore. I was so worried because I had never heard her say that before, and I told my mom. Both of us aren’t there though, so we couldn’t do anything physically to help her, but I think that the more that we talk to her on the phone and just remind her that we love her so much and miss her, the days get easier for her. Ove didn’t have that family in his life, until he finally allowed the few of his neighbors in to his life and ended up creating a found family that he apparently didn’t want, but didn’t know he needed.
I think I missed the point because I got a little bit personal about this, but basically Ove stopped living the moment his wife died. He went through the motions of what he needed to do to survive, but there just was a point for him where it wasn’t worth it anymore. And I get that. He wasn’t dead inside, but he wasn’t living anymore. And I think in all honesty, Pravaneh ended up saving his life in a way that Ove didn’t even realize. And he ended up finding his family, and purpose again.
People need you in the most unexpected ways
I don’t even really know what I want to say about this without getting into spoiler territory, which I don’t want to do, but basically I don’t think Ove realized that it wasn’t his time to die yet, and that’s why he wasn’t able to finally finish what he was trying to do. Each time he would start his suicide process, someone would interrupt him or something would happen and he would get irritated because he just wanted to die in peace. It just wasn’t his time yet, and I know that he didn’t believe in God or any religion after his parents ended up dying when he was young – at separate times but still – but maybe there was some sort of outside force involved that wouldn’t allow him to die when he thought he wanted to. Every single person that he interacted with, even if he was mean as heck to them, benefited from that interaction in some way. And that’s what made him special even if he didn’t want to admit it, or didn’t see it for himself. Just something to think about.
I think instead of the characters having development, it was the reader that had a development. From the beginning, Backman makes it seem like Ove is just a mean old man, but the more that we hear about his backstory and see how even though he can be mean, he still does things that shows he cares about others, just in a way that isn’t super obvious at the time, the reader goes through some character development to realize that we can’t just judge someone based on how they come across. Yes, it’s a good indicator for the most part, but while Ove’s words could have been mean, his actions weren’t. And those are two different things.
I kept laughing whenever Ove would basically tell people that they were idiots because that low key reminded me of my grandpa when he just didn’t want to deal with people and their bullshit. I mean, both of them had a good reason for saying so, and I knew it too, so I couldn’t help but think of my grandpa when I read those parts. And I also saw my grandpa in Ove when he would help his neighbors and stuff even though it seemed like he was so bothered by it. So it’s weird that I saw both my grandma and my grandpa in Ove, and by the time it was over, I did sort of cry a little. Screw you Backman for making me cry with that ending though. How dare you.
I mean that with love, by the way.
The first chapter really tied in well to the ending, and I like how Backman did that. Because we think that Ove is just a mean old man that doesn’t know what an iPad is and is taking out his frustration on the staff trying to help him, and we don’t even know why he’s really there in the first place. It was cute. I laughed. I think the pacing worked. Really, there were only a few chapters that were solely dedicated to the past, and I think they were done well to give us more insight on this man called Ove. I think I liked when the past and the present were showed in the same chapters though, but the ones where the past had their own chapter were done the right way. Those topics and points in his life needed their own spot and attention without it being overshadowed by other things.
- Do you just stop living after the color in your life dies?
- How do you know when you’re needed for something other than yourself?
- Are you irritated with people all up in your space when you just want to be left alone?
I had a lot more time to think about this after I slept on it. I know that I was really just trying to finish this because I felt like I was taking way too long on it, and honestly I don’t think I should put any time limits on how long it takes me to enjoy a book unless it’s absolutely necessary, but by the time I did finish it, I was just really emotional and thinking about my grandparents. So I feel like that definitely changed my thoughts on the book after a while. I definitely didn’t hate it, and while I didn’t love it like I did other books, I was able to appreciate it for what it was and enjoy seeing Ove find some color back in his life again. Plus Parvaneh was super funny and I was glad to see her.