I did a thing I don’t normally do, I watched the movie first.
I had gotten A Man Called Ove on Audible some time ago, but kept holding off on it. I tend to pick the audiobook I want to listen to based on its length – how much time do I have to give it right now? Sitting at just over 9 hours you’d think I would have found a few days to listen before now, but I had not. With August quickly getting away from me (campers are exhausting, y’all) I decided now was the time.
But only because I had watched the movie a few weeks ago, and it made me cry happy tears.
A Man Called Ove tells a rather simple story: the family you find can give meaning where you were sure there was none left to make.
Ove is a cantankerous man (as the book explains, “Ove has been a grumpy old man since the first day of second grade”) who is very set in his ways and not interested in making new friends and changing any of his routines. Alas, two tragedies have befallen him, his beloved wife Sonja, the only woman he has ever loved, has died following a several year battle with cancer and he has been made redundant at work just six months later. Ove sees this as a clear sign that it is time for him to exit this life, but then his new neighbors move in, and now his life is out of his control.
The book travels down several paths all at once. We travel back to Ove’s childhood and young adult years to see him develop into who he is, and learn about his life with Sonja and their struggles. We learn about Ove’s years living in his home, and his battles with his neighbors which have been built into his daily patrols. We also meet the people who would be in his life, and make him their business, and themselves his. We also trace Ove’s determination to end his life, and as the lovely Parvaneh puts it, just how shite he is at dying.
Honestly, if this quote stirs something in you, then this book is for you. If it doesn’t, that’s alright too. The book comes together a smidge too neatly, and is not as true to life as you might want. But it is warm, and satisfying while letting a curmudgeon be its heart.
“Now you listen to me,” says Ove calmly while he carefully closes the door. “You’ve given birth to two children and quite soon will be squeezing out a third. You’ve come here from a land far away and most likely you fled war and persecution and all sorts of other nonsense. You’ve learned a new language and got yourself an education and you’re holding together a family of obvious incompetents. And I’ll be damned if I’ve seen you afraid of a single bloody thing in this world before now….I’m not asking for brain surgery. I’m asking you to drive a car. It’s got an accelerator, a brake and a clutch. Some of the greatest twits in world history have sorted out how it works. And you will as well.” And then he utters seven words, which Parvaneh will always remember as the loveliest compliment he’ll ever give her. “Because you are not a complete twit.”