Book review: ‘A Man Called Ove’

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By Kaylee Johnson
Campus News

Every summer I make a vow to myself to read one book per week. Last week I entered my local bookstore and read the back of a dozen books. I like romantic novels, but I roll my eyes at corny cookie-cutter love stories. “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman fit my criteria, and it exceeded my expectations.

Sometimes I pin lists of books meant for book clubs. These book clubs are aimed towards women in their 50s, and most of the novels are about love, divorce, and dysfunctional families. Those are the types of books I enjoy reading on the beach or on vacation, because It doesn’t matter if I miss a sentence or two. “A Man Called Ove was on one of these lists, so of course I was skeptical of it at first. Most of those books consist of formulaic writing, but “A Man Called Ove” was different.

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The main character in the book was Ove, who was a hostile older man who thought one way and refused to see things any other way. The chapters alternated between past and present, which I preferred because I could understand how the character came to be. All of the characters in the novel were extremely well developed. Most of the characters that were introduced made frequent appearances throughout the chapters, and each one had a distinct personality.

Without Ove’s judgmental attitude and dark humor this book would not have been nearly as wonderful. Ove appeared rigid and grumpy to his neighbors, but deep within he had the capacity to love. After being let go from his job and the tragic death of his wife Ove felt like he died too. He didn’t know how to fill the hours in the day, and he contemplated suicide throughout the whole novel.

This book had romance, and it wasn’t the cookie-cutter type that I despise. Ove and his wife’s love story was a beautiful one. Little details about Ove were exposed throughout the novel, and I like that that the flashback chapters did not go in any order. Ove’s past told me a lot about who he was.

I always say that it is important to have at least one likeable character in a novel, but Ove was bordering between antagonist and protagonist. In most books suggested for women’s book clubs a character is either good or bad: the cheating husband, the bimbo blonde, and the heroine who risked it all to save her family.

I kept thinking about how “A Man Called Ove” did not try to avoid stereotypes, but rather used them constructively and hilariously. The novel was brutally honest and a breath of fresh air.

This summer I suggest reading “A Man Called Ove” under blue skies and bright rays of golden sunshine. Ove was such a charming character, and I am sure I will not forget about him anytime soon. I found myself still thinking about the novel days after I finished it, and to me that was a sign that it was well written.

If you are like me and automatically judge novels on book club lists, I can reassure you that that “A Man Called Ove” is the diamond in the rough. It’s not your mother’s book club novel.