Book #4 of the year!
A Man Called Ove (pronounced OOvah) is a book about a curdmugeon who has just lost his wife. He battles with suicidal thoughts. He also is perpetually annoyed by his neighbors and all those around him. He is cranky and mean, but slowly he is awakened to a new version of himself and slowly begins to enjoy his life, sort of. The same people who annoy him, end up being the same people who smooth out his rough edges. Also, the cat who is just as cranky as him, is super hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud several times throughout this book and most of the time, the cat was in the scene.
COVERT SPOILERS AHEAD!
I am the opposite of Mr. Ove. I see rules more like guidelines, and for Ove rules were obeyed always. I try different things all the time where Ove hated change. I struggle with routines, Ove thrived in them. I am fluid with what I wear or eat, Ove didn’t have much of a wardrobe. Silence with others is a treasured thing for me, but with strangers, the hardest thing for me to do is be quiet – you get the picture. I usually am not cranky and I definitely never send back my food at a restaurant, return items to a retail store or write emails or letters regarding my warranty. But as life would have it, I am drawn to people who are hyper routine oriented. People who see black and white, right and wrong, and who lean more towards stoicism. I can see the necessity for people who see the world like Ove – granted, I do believe Ove needed someone to slap him once in a while to snap out of it. There is a point where you are taking yourself or life a bit too seriously. Ove did have someone like that in his wife. She saw potential in his seriousness, but as luck would have it for Ove, she passed away. His wife, Sonja, died and Ove didn’t know what to do with himself. Us extroverts need the introverts to draw us into ourselves and contemplate about things. To not speak and listen. To see that this way is right or this way is wrong. The same goes with introverts, we draw them out into sponteneity, a little bit of chaos, and once in a while, side-splitting laughter!
This and more is what A Man Called Ove is about – our differences. How in the mundane and in the monotony is where deep relationships can flourish. Our lives intersect and touch each other unceasingly, and what we do in those moments either chips away at our humanity, or interlinks it. I loved A Man Called Ove because I have a lot of cranky people in my life that just need a hug, and even though I may run the risk of being rejected, I am confident in myself enough to keep loving them.
Something else I really didn’t expect from this book was the insight I would receive about people who are suicidal. I am continuously grateful that I have never struggled with suicidal thoughts. I know that there are many out there who suffer from these kinds of thoughts. I know many who have to fight depression and sadness every day. I am thankful that this is not my lot in life. Reading Ove’s thoughts really surprised me. In my mind, I thought that he would quit after his first failed attempt at hanging himself. What a shock I received when Ove attempted yet again to kill himself. He failed to kill himself several times, and still tried to do it. In my sunshine-rainbows-and-kittens-type-of-mind, he should be grateful he didn’t die, see the light, realize he has so much to live for and move on from his loneliness. I am so dense! All who I have spoken with who struggle with melancholia and depression, these thoughts seem to never leave. Yes, they have happy moments. Yes, they see that they are needed. Yes, life does go on, but in the background hangs this low dark cloud of sadness, loneliness or even suicide.
Learning things like this is why all of us should read fiction. C.S. Lewis writes that fiction “enlarges our perspective”. It allows us “to escape from ourselves into one another”. What a better way to get to know those around us who are not like us. Yes, could I read statistics on suicide among teens? Could I read about chemical imbalances or hormonal fluctuations in the brain? Of course. But something else happens to my soul when I read about a man’s bellowed sob that springs from his soul at the loss of his wife. At the frustrated wail of a mother when the doctor can do nothing more for her child. Of the silent cry of a woman holding the lifeless body of sister, who survived a Nazi camp only to die later of pneumonia. Fiction reaches us where statistics can’t.
I will eventually forget the stats I read, but I probably will never forget Ove.
This is officially my first 5 star rating of the year!! I recommend this book to anyone who likes heartwarming books! You can buy this book and other books by Mr. Fredrik Backman at the Shire Bookstore. If you liked As Good As It Gets the movie, you’ll definitely like this book. Obviously there are several attempts at suicide throughout the book, so if you struggle with those thoughts, please be careful as you read. Also, there is a movie based on this book starring Tom Hanks called “A Man Called Otto”. I recently read that it will eventually stream on Netflix.