Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?
Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.
Author: Fredrick Backman
“People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had.”
When I finished this book on my way to work one morning, all I could think was, “UGH UGH UGH MY HEART UGH.” I then started my workday as a blubbering ball of pure emotion.
Peter Borland, the book’s editor, told Off the Shelf, “Sometimes I hear people say they love the book because of how Ove changes over the course of the novel. But that’s not true. What’s remarkable about the book is that Ove doesn’t change at all. Not even a little bit. Instead, once we learn his backstory and understand why he is the way he is, we change—and we fall in love with him.” To say that he hit the nail on the head feels like an understatement.
“‘Loving someone is like moving into a house,’ Sonja used to say. ‘At first you fall in love in everything new, you wonder every morning that this is one’s own, as if they are afraid that someone will suddenly come tumbling through the door and say that there has been a serious mistake and that it simply was not meant to would live so fine. But as the years go by, the facade worn, the wood cracks here and there, and you start to love this house not so much for all the ways it is perfect in that for all the ways it is not. You become familiar with all its nooks and crannies. How to avoid that the key gets stuck in the lock if it is cold outside. Which floorboards have some give when you step on them, and exactly how to open the doors for them not to creak. That’s it, all the little secrets that make it your home.'”
Nobody told me that this book was going to break my heart and then lovingly repair it, over and over again. I was emotionally unprepared for how beautiful it all was. I was heartbroken that this book had to end.
Ove (pronounced OO-vuh—he’s Swedish) is a grumpy old man who does the same thing every day. He sees the world a certain way and will never change it. He and Sonja of remind me of the old man and his wife from Pixar’s Up. But as we get glimpse after glimpse into his past and perspective, we realize that it would be impossible for Ove to love more deeply or more completely. The way he loves is so pure that I find myself wanting to personally shield him—a fictional character—from anything that could cause him pain.
Backman also uses metaphors masterfully—the cat, the Saab, driving in the residential area, reading Shakespeare, I could go on—in a way that is perfectly balanced between subtle and familiar. The secondary characters are purposeful, delightful, and just as lovable as Ove. And there are so many beautiful lessons to take away from the story.
I could gush about this one forever. It’s gonna take me a while to recover. Ugh. Love.