“Very few books make me root for the central character. Ove has me hooked.. am with him for a fun ride!” That was my update a third into the book. And boy, did this guy keep me hooked. I was with him as his past unfolded in front of me. I was with him as his present life was amended by some funny, some happy, some sad events. Above all, I was with him as this grumpy old sod grew into a grumpy, but caring, grandad.
Author, Fredrik Backman, allows the characters to grow and that is the biggest reason the book worked for me. There is no haste in revealing the past or bumping into Ove’s future. Every chapter, a short story in itself, unfolds more of Ove and the world around him. You see Ove as he is. You are slowly led to understand why he is the way he is, mostly via flashbacks. You are made to feel for the guy, made to root for him to not stay how he is. And when that happens, because you are already absorbed into Ove’s life, you are left contented.
Saying Ove is grumpy would be an understatement. He is on the edge always, ready to get worked up. He is disappointed in everyone around him. He feels no one is responsible enough to care for oneself – dependent on others for every little thing. He feels the world around has no respect for rules of the land, doesn’t matter they are chalked out by Ove himself. So he takes it upon himself to make sure people are constantly reminded of that. And that’s how he lives his life – a monotonous, misanthropic one . And as Ove is planning to end his troubles with his life, fate has just the opposite planned for him — to add just enough goodness in Ove’s life to thaw the bitterness.
The book maintains a wry sense of humor throughout. It made me laugh out loud at multiple instances. Especially, the way Ove’s frustrations in other people’s incompetence are worded is an absolute masterclass. The book also maintains a deep sad undertone. It does not ever let Ove’s sulkiness make you hate him.
So be it through his affection towards a young boy in love or forced, but welcome attachment from the lively new neighbor or the unspoken responsibility towards the old, and may be the only friend, Ove always shows just enough warmth to make him the most likable character in a long long time. Or in Sonja, Ove’s wife’s words, “the strangest superhero I have ever heard about”.
Go welcome this guy, and the gang, into your life. He will make you smile, guffaw, shed a tear and, above all, enlighten you towards life. A must read.
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars