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A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

March 11, 2017


This book was recommended to me by my friend Tim. I was surprised not by how much I liked this book, but how much I ended up loving the main character, Ove (pronounced oh-vuh). The way Fredrik manipulates the reader in his development of the main character is masterful. And if “manipulates” sounds too negative, then maybe “reveals” is a better word. Ove is doled out in a way that repeatedly makes the reader feel we know him, only to have that concept of Ove challenged every time new information comes to light.

On the surface, Ove is a curmudgeon. A stubborn, cranky old man who’s rude to his neighbors and obsessed with meaningless rules. But as we get to know Ove, we learn that he’s also a man struggling with loss. Whether intentional or not, the fact that Ove’s name is one letter away from both LOVE and OVER seems significant.

We also learn through flashbacks that Ove is not as selfish as we might have made him out to be. He is just more a man of action—willing to play the role of the hero, albeit reluctantly (or so he would have you think).

“Charming” is a word that comes to mind with this novel, but that feels too shallow. I felt a great deal of sympathy for Ove, and I actually felt a little guilty for judging him early on in the novel. By the end, one has completely reconsidered who Ove is, because we know why he is.

The humor of Ove’s character reminded me of J Robert Lennon’s protagonist in The Mailman (an excellent novel), though in the end there is more redemption for Ove. He is also a more heartbreaking character and, perhaps because of that, will stick with the reader long after they’ve finished the novel.

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