One of my absolute favorite books I have read this year is “A Man Called Ove,” by Fredrik Backman. The basic plot follows the story of a crotchety old widower, Ove, who’s life is turned upside down when a young family with two daughters moves in across the street. A more detailed description of the plot might disturb you so I have to say up front: it is a delightful and heart-warming story!
When the story first starts, we meet Ove who lost his wife relatively recently. He and his wife were never able to have children and he doesn’t enjoy the company of other people, so he lives alone and wonders what he’s supposed to do with the rest of his life. He decides to kill himself so he can rejoin his wife. However, he’s interrupted during his first attempt by a family who moves in across the street and need his help. He roles his eyes, but comes to the conclusion that if he kills himself before helping out these people then his wife will be mad at him when she sees him again, so he goes to give them a hand before he tries again.
The story continues with many moments like that. He keeps attempting new ways to die and each time he’s interrupted by somebody in need. The needy range from his new neighbors to a cat to a young man who is a homosexual and gets kicked out of his home by his father and needs a place to stay so he moves in with Ove. There’s also an instance where he stands in front of a train but decides that he doesn’t want to ruin the conductor’s life (his wife certainly wouldn’t like that) so he gets out of the way so he can take his own life in a cleaner, more solitary way.
By the end of the book, of course, Ove’s entire outlook on life has changed and it just fills you with warm fuzzies.
There was one detail in the book that I did not like. Throughout the book we experience flashbacks of Ove’s life with his wife before she passed away. At one point we learn that Ove’s wife, Sonja, is pregnant (later she loses the baby in an accident and is unable to have more children). At this point, we haven’t read about a wedding, but I sort of assumed that they’d gotten married at some point. However, later on Sonja, who it turns out was not yet his wife, suggests they should get married, even though she’s already pregnant. Now, I am old-fashioned and believe children should be born within the bounds of matrimony and also that couples shouldn’t live together before they’re married. I’m also not naive and know that this is not always the case and don’t judge anybody’d decisions. What mostly bothered me about this little detail is that it seemed inaccurate for the time period. These flashbacks must have taken place in the 50’s or so, and it was very frowned upon during that time period for a woman to get pregnant out of wedlock, and if she did, there would have been a wedding immediately! Now, I know that was not the case for all women back then, but it seemed odd to me that not only were Ove and Sonja living together and expecting a baby, but it seemed that they hadn’t even considered making it official and tying the knot until Sonja suggested it. And then they do get married, only because she suggested it.
I am not trying to offend anybody’s beliefs or ideals, and I certainly am not trying to force mine upon you, but this is my blog and my thoughts on a book so if you don’t like it, well, nobody is forcing you to keep reading.
Anyway, that really is my only complaint about the book. The rest of it is a smattering of funny situations and tender moments and I feel that anybody who reads it will find themselves smiling at the end.