Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)
Let me begin with a disclaimer: I am suspicious of the Swedes. The whole culture of Sweden seems to be not to my taste: the decor is too spare, the food too salty, the people too good-looking, and the literature too dark. So when several trusted book-recommenders told me I just had to read A Man Called Ove, Sweden’s newest blockbuster novel, I was deeply apprehensive. I just didn’t think a Swedish author could pull off a happy ending.
A little plot description: There is a man called Ove (pronounced, as far as I can tell, OOO-veh). He has recently lost his wife and been forcibly retired from his job. All he wants to do is commit suicide. But his neighbors–a young family, an old friend, a gay man, a cat–keep foiling his best-laid plans by needing his help. If you have ever seen the movie Gran Torino, Ove is a lot like the Clint Eastwood character. Or, come to think of it, any Clint Eastwood character. Over the course of the book, the reader watches him grow to accept and embrace the new “family” of neighbors around him.
The ending isn’t strictly happy–I couldn’t expect a Swede to deliver sunshine and rainbows, after all–but it is highly satisfying. And I think that’s what I like most about A Man Called Ove. It’s sweet and heartwarming and funny, but with a hard realist edge that keeps it from being saccharine. So maybe I like the Swedes more than I think. Bring on the ABBA and lutefisk!
Located in Adult Fiction (FIC BACKMAN)