Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Man Called Love

A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Man Called Ove is the name of the book, but what you see above is not a typo. The book is, at heart, a love story. Fredrick Backman has created a small masterpiece in this gem of a tale about a not-so-charming man. A man of a certain age and type. The curmudgeonly type.

Ove is the grumpiest man on the block, until a young family moves in next door and calls him back to life and love. People aren't following the rules, and God is the worst offender in this matter, having taken Ove's wife, the only color in his life, and by gum, Ove is determined to join her. But the neighbors keep interrupting every time he has his method and timing picked, and Ove must save the day.

The book has been compared with The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, but I love it even more. It's funnier and wiser than either, and neither one of those books had my grandpa in it. Or the cat. Backman can sure write a cat. He can also write the story of a man who speaks his heart with his hands, his harsh and brittle life, and the tenderness at its core. This is my favorite general fiction book of the year so far, and I could see an Oscar-winning movie come from it, with the right team. It is sure to be a book club favorite for years to come.

I laughed out loud and cried good tears. Thank you Simon and Schuster for retaining the British translation; it would not be nearly as funny in American English. The translator is gifted! Colloquialisms have been left in, and they make the book more charming: "Her laughter catches him on the back foot. As if it's carbonated and someone has poured it too fast and it's bubbling over in all directions. It doesn't fit at all with the grey cement and right-angled garden paving stones. It's an untidy, mischievous laugh that refuses to go along with rules and proscriptions."

Parvaneh is the young mother who has moved in next door, whose name means butterfly. That laugh has a butterfly effect on Ove's life, and he is caught by the back foot indeed, captivated like a stray and charmed back to the land of the living. And he smiling. You, too, will be captivated and smiling even through tears, as Backman celebrates the beauty and transformative power of everyday love, all kinds.

I received an EARC of this book for review from the publisher and netgalley, and it's cost me 20 bucks, because I have to buy a hardback for my "favorites" shelf. :)

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