I kept getting reminded, reading this book, of that quote by Rita Mae Brown (I’m 89% sure… could be Plato) that says “Happiness is pretty simple: someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to.” A Man Called Ove is not happy. He has no one to love, now that his beloved wife has been dead for six months. He has nothing to do, now that he has been forced to retire from his job. And he has nothing to look forward to. So what is left to do? Nothing, he thinks, so prepares himself to die. This is not an emotional or sudden decision, he has simply come to the conclusion that he is finished living, and so he goes about getting ready to stop. The only problem with this plan is all the annoying people who keep dragging him into their dumb problems. I have identified with Ove entirely too closely to be comfortable with. After all, I spend my entire life getting dragged into dumb problems by annoying people as well. It is exhausting.
Now that he is forcibly retired, Ove spends his days on patrol. Though he was ousted from the resident’s association in a dramatic event he refers to as a coup d’etat, he still volunteers his time wandering the neighborhood, exposing rules that have been broken and generally finding things to complain about. Lately his biggest gripe is about the new neighbors, a family with a man who is an IT consultant (which Ove believes to be a useless profession) a pregnant woman (from Iran!) and two small children who do terrible things that small children do, like touch things and make noise. This family is annoying him by constantly borrowing things like ladders and bringing him cookies when he does not want cookies because he is trying to kill himself right then, and needing rides to the hospital when the useless IT consultant falls off the borrowed ladder, as Ove knew he would.
Every time he gets close to his mission of suicide, he gets dragged in to some other local drama until eventually his life is suddenly full again. Along the way we learn about his life and the things that have shaped him into the man he is now. Ove is exceptionally endearing, there is no way you aren’t falling in love with him, I promise. I got more and more emotional as the story went on and he was given things to do and things to look forward to. This book is a warning about isolating oneself and the effects of loneliness. There is also no way you aren’t crying while reading this book, sorry. I cried and I’m practically dead inside. You’re toast.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman – Grade B+