This novel, written by Fredrik Backman, recounts the life of the titular character, Ove, an aging man in a modern world. Ove believes in function, simplicity and doing things the right way. He appreciates things like rules, math and numbers, where problems have a clear answer and the satisfaction of fixing things the way they should be fixed is its own reward. But in a world of long-winded contracts, men in white shirts, people who don’t know how to read a sign and more computers and gadgets than you could swing a hammer at, a man of action and honest work like Ove has become bitter and disillusioned with a society where people would rather talk, cheat, or pawn their problems off on others.
In the beginning of the story, Ove has given up on people or feels that they have given up on him. That’s when a new family moves in next door, starting a chain of events that forces Ove to open his heart and examine his place in a world that needs people like him more than they know and more than a hardened curmudgeon might want to admit.
Told in a format that jumps back and forth between the events of Ove’s past and the trials of his present, is a whimsical tale of a relatively ordinary man navigating the march of time and the effect it has had on the life he wanted, turning it into the life he has. It examines the role of the elderly in society, particularly one that regards them as no more than speedbumps toward some form of progress. However, the narrative follows events from the ground level and is ultimately more concerned with the individual characters and their reactions to events and each other. As such, the novel feels more like a touching story to tug the heartstrings and less like it’s trying to beat the reader over the head with a point.
A Man Called Ove is a well written story that seems to know exactly what it is and doesn’t pretend to be anything more. While some of the dialogue seems forced from time to time, it serves to move the story along at places where it could easily get hung up and distract from the unfolding drama of the overall story. Otherwise the characters are richly detailed and the description of scenes does well to evoke a sense of space and color.
A Man Called Ove is for sale at the Book Shelf for $3.99. Also for sale by the same author is My Grandmother Asked to Tell You She’s Sorry for $3.99.