Although not obvious from the first thirty-four pages, A Man
Called Ove (the name rhymes with “move”) is a love story. The opening chapter
entitled, “A Man Called Ove Buys a Computer that is Not a Computer,” will
introduce you to our titular character, in all his curmudgeonly glory, as he
attempts to buy an iPad, having no idea what one is. No explanation is given
for why this very angry Luddite is so highly motivated to make this purchase. For
that you have to wait for chapter thirty-eight.
In the second chapter, “(Three Weeks Earlier) A Man Called
Ove Makes his Neighborhood Inspection,” Ove meets a stray cat (The Cat Annoyance, as Ove refers
to him) and immediately tries to bean him with his wooden clog. (Ove resides in
Sweden, as does author Fredrick Backman.) Readers will come up hard against some
of Ove’s other personality quirks: His dislike for people who don’t know how to brew a decent cup of
coffee; for people who drive their cars into the area restricted for
residential use and those who leave their cars in the guest parking area over
twenty-four hours; for people who insist on separating recycling from trash and
those who don’t sort properly; for incompetent people who drive badly and all
people who don’t drive Saabs. (People in general, really.) And his inexhaustible and inexplicable quest to find just the right anchor bolt.
You will meet some of his neighbors, hear constantly about Ove’s
wife, who seems to drive Ove crazy with her love of cats, the number of coats
she owns (Ove has only two, both blue, one for fall, one for winter) her desire
to turn up the thermostat when the temperature outside drops. (Lunacy! Does she
realize how much each degree costs?) You might well grow weary of Ove, reasonably
decide that he is not someone you want to spend the next three hundred pages
with, and wonder how such a book became an international best seller.
Stay with it until you reach page thirty-four. (And please
do not cheat and read that page first.)
By the end of A Man Called Ove, you will find yourself
alternately laughing and crying as you learn, in alternating chapters, about Ove’s
early life and his marriage and all of what made him the man his is today. You will
come to love him and his rag-tag assortment of new friends, who help him reveal
that he is, in truth, a man with a really big heart.
A Man Called Ove is available at the Norwich Bookstore and wherever books are sold.
Katharine Britton is the author of three novels, Her Sister's Shadow, Little Island, and Vanishing Time.