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.
Rating: 5/5 Stars
First Line: “Ove is fifty-nine.”
I’m gonna start this one off by asking a question: did you like the Disney movie Up? Did you find something intriguing, inspiring, or inviting about the grumpy old man named Carl? If you did, I can almost guarantee you’ll love this book.
This is the story of a grumpy old man named Ove. He is kind of an abrasive person–that is, he doesn’t filter his words. He says what he thinks and, most of the time, it’s not nice. But somehow, over the course of this book, you end up loving him.
The thing I loved most about this book is that it is about love in all of its forms. Romantic love when your partner is there, and when they are not. Friendship. The love between a parent and child. Teachers and students. The love between a parent and a child that was never born. It’s captivating and inspiring and really does remind you how powerful the truest forms of love can be, and how, sometimes, true love comes from places one never expects.
I have read one of Fredrik Backman’s books before this (My Grandmother Asked me to Tell you she’s Sorry) and I loved it. It’s listed on this site as one of my top 15 favorite books. I do not know if this is due to Backman’s own skills or the translator’s (Backman is Swedish, so the books were translated to English) or some combination of both, but the books read like poetry. There is a rhythm to the words that I have never come across in another novel. He uses so many similes and metaphors, but never in ways that feel overused or cliche. Just because I love his writing so much and I think it speaks for itself more than I ever could, here’s a couple of my favorite quotes from this book:
“People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had.”
“Rolf Backman. My father. Because I hope I am unlike you in the smallest possible number of ways.” (this is from the acknowledgements)
“We fear [death], yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.”
“She laughed and laughed and laughed until the vowels were rolling across the walls and floors, as if they meant to do away with the laws of time and space.”
“But sorrow is unreliable in that way. When people don’t share it there’s a good chance that it will drive them apart instead.”
You have no idea how hard it was to choose only those five quotes, oh my goodness. There’s at least one laugh out loud or super sweet quote in every chapter. Sometimes both.
Here is the one thing I will say about this book that might be considered negative: it could be triggering to some people. I don’t want to say too much and spoil it, but I will say I was caught off guard by how often certain topics came up in the book. Suicide was a very prevalent subject throughout the novel. But the way Backman wrote about it speaks even more to his ability as a writer, at least in my opinion. Backman did not make light of the subject; he also did not allow it to make the book “a suicide book”. I’ve been trying to think of a way to explain it properly, but I don’t think I can. All I can say is that, as heavy as the subject of suicide can (and often should) be, Backman wrote about it with grace, poise, and even wit.
There’s a quote on the cover of my copy of the book from PEOPLE magazine (and the image I attached to this review) that I think sums up this book perfectly: “A charming debut…you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel new sympathy for the curmudgeons in your life.”
This is one of those books I’m going to say you just have to read to understand how wonderful it is.
P.S. Can we talk about what a perfect word “curmudgeons” is? I love it!