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The best-selling novel “A Man Called Ove” by Swedish columnist and blogger Fredrik Backman is funny, poignant and moving. Ove is the reason.
He is a 59-year old Saab owner living in Sweden. He likes rules and order and speaks only when he has something to say.
Ove knows his machinery and can take any old Saab apart and fix it. The only kind of car he has ever driven is a Saab, and he is suspicious of anyone driving a BMW. He and his neighbor formed a neighborhood association years ago when they first moved in.
Ove does not speak to the neighbor any more, though – not since he was ousted as chairman of the Residents Association. However, he still gets up early to make his inspection rounds.
Cars are not permitted into the residential area. And if cars are parked too long in the communal lot, he sees to it that they are towed.
This story is not always upbeat; Ove struggles with heartbreak, depression and grief. He has been bitter about life and people since the death of his handicapped wife, Sonja, six months earlier.
As the story unfolds, the author writes about Ove’s childhood and his father. Their stories are told in alternating chapters.
Ove’s father always did the right thing. Ove has recently been forced into retirement as his company downsized.
Then one day a pregnant Iranian woman, Parvaneh, her Swedish husband, Patrick, and their two young daughters move into the terraced house next door. On arrival, they drive their van right into the prohibited area and smash Ove’s mailbox in the process.
Ove marches right up to this family and tells the woman about the “rules.” Slowly a smile forms on the lips of Parvaneh.
What follows is a heartwarming story of unusual friendships, extended family and how sometimes one just cannot judge someone from the first impression.
The author transforms Ove into the man the reader suspects has been there
The supporting characters – the next- door neighbors, a mangy cat called Cat Annoyance, overweight Anita, the homeless teen Jimmy and a man in a white shirt – fit perfectly within the storyline that helps Ove uncover his true self.
Cat Annoyance takes up residence with Ove, who feeds him two cans of tuna a day.
In this debut novel, Mr. Backman presents a story that perhaps will leave the reader thinking about what is really important in life and work.