About 6 months ago, I picked My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry to read for book club. We all really enjoyed it and I felt like I had found a new favorite author. Because of how much we enjoyed that one, Denise picked his first novel A Man Called Ove for this month.
By: Fredrik Backman
Published Year: 2014
Publisher: Atria Books
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Summary (Provided by 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.
What I thought
Ove is a 59 year old man (although presented as if he is older) who recently lost his wife and is trying to figure out how to live without her. He has never liked people but has always believed in doing what is right. When new neighbors move in, they start to influence his life in ways he never knew he wanted.
Ove is one of my favorite characters I’ve read in a while. He is the grumpiest man ever and it cracked me up. I picture him shuffling along grumbling to himself and then he sees someone not doing something write and just goes “idiot” before grabbing it and doing it himself. He could have ended up being annoying or frustrating, but because he truly has a good heart, he's just endearing. Ove is just a true person and he never has hidden motives to his actions. It was refreshing to read about a character who was unapologetically himself.
I really really enjoyed this book. Yet again, Backman does an amazing job with multiple characters. Even though Ove is the only one who you receive the perspective of, I felt like I got to know all of the secondary characters intimately. Backman writes stories about how lives can influence other lives and he does it so well. These seemingly ordinary moments become influential and life changing. This book was humorous and touching, a balance that Backman manages well in his writing.
What Book Club Thought
For the most part everyone enjoyed this book. One topic of discussion that came up was how suicide was incorporated into the story. Ove attempts suicide multiple times throughout the book and it almost becomes a bit of a joke. One of the book club members was uneasy about this choice of storyline. I found it interesting because until she mentioned it, I didn’t realize that I had almost started skimming those parts going “yeah, yeah, how is it going to fail this time?” I wasn’t offended by the off handed way that suicide was written about or dealt with in this book, but I could see how someone might be. Either way, this whole story made for an interesting discussion and I would highly recommend it for a book club read.
December Book: Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between By: Lauren Graham
Book Club Date: December 11 2016