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Let’s Talk About Curmudgeons: A Man Called Ove

Years ago, I found myself wanting to branch out in my literary proclivities. I wanted to delve into a story based in reality instead of the fantasy worlds I tended to immerse myself in. This led me to the local library’s staff picks table. I found myself picking up a book because its title contained a word I had never seen – Ove. My brain kept trying to “fix” the typo by adding an L to the beginning – not knowing just how appropriate a modification this would prove to be.

A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman is a stand-alone novel that has haunted me since my single read through almost a decade ago. So, when I found it whilst perusing Russellville’s own Dog Ear Books, I couldn’t resist snagging a copy for my personal library. And while I remembered being blown away by this book, I wasn’t truly prepared for the emotional roller coaster I had climbed back on.

In a nutshell, this book is about a 59-year-old widower who has lost all sense of purpose for living since losing his wife, then being forced into early retirement. His solution? Suicide. By the 3rd chapter or so, it becomes clear what his intentions are, but (spoiler alert) he never succeeds. Ove’s disbelief and grumpy demeanor that he flings at the hurdles he keeps encountering makes for some brilliantly dry humor in the place of his desired death. In a series of kismet events, life repeatedly interrupts his varied suicide attempts using the colorful cast of characters that populate Ove’s world.

Over the course of the book, you will see glimpses of Ove from childhood with his stoic father. These parts help you to understand the steadfast, honor-bound facet of Ove’s personality. This is, arguably, the part that the world views as a curmudgeon. Ove is a very black and white person with unwavering morals. This novel does an excellent job of peeling back those layers, though, to reveal that age-old adage “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”.

The portions of the book devoted to Ove and his wife are where we first get beneath the surface and discover that the curmudgeon CAN appreciate the color of this world. He even claims his wife was all the color he’d ever want or need. Sweet, right?

Ultimately, though, it’s the friendships and relationships that Ove almost has FORCED on him as he is trying to check out of this life that end up saving him in the long run. The colorful cast of neighbors with their quirks, secrets, and own personal motivations really rounds out this book into a true work of art.

And, for those of you less inclined to reading, you are in luck! They’ve made a movie out of this one. Starring Tom Hanks, they changed the name from the very Swedish “Ove” to Otto. I’ve already checked it out, and it is a very satisfactory book to screen adaptation. But, as with most things, the book is better! Let me know in the comments below what ya’ll thought!

-Rachel Brashear is a hippie hillbilly two-spirit nonbinary native of the Arkansas River Valley for the past 30 years. She holds degrees in English and Creative Writing and descends from a long line of story-tellers. She lives with a plethora of fur babies and relishes in an almost magical ability to build community.



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