Thursday, January 30, 2020

Fiction Review: A Man Called Ove

For years, everyone I know--including my mother--has been saying, "You have to read A Man Called Ove!" I finally had the chance this month to listen to the popular and acclaimed Swedish novel by Fredrik Backman on audio. Everyone was right! I started laughing from the first moments of this warm, funny, poignant novel and loved every moment of it.

Ove is a fifty-nine year old man in Sweden with a reputation as a curmudgeon. Recently forced to retire early (and reluctantly) from the job he loved, he still likes to feel useful. Each morning, he makes the rounds of his planned townhouse community, checking to see that no one had parked where they shouldn't, that recyclables and trash are each in their respective bins, and that the neighborhood is generally following the rules; as you might expect, his efforts are not always appreciated. One morning, Ove's life is upended when new neighbors move in next to him, knocking over his mailbox while trying (unsuccessfully) to back up their rental trailer. This does not go over well. The woman, whom Ove christens The Pregnant One, seems to be foreign; the man, known in Ove's mind as The Lanky One, is clearly useless if he can't even back up a trailer; and their two little girls are chatty and annoying. Despite Ove's scathing comments to them about the trailer in his flower bed, the woman, Parvaneh, sees something in Ove worth working to get to know. Through a series of emergencies, crises, and other situations that require Ove's assistance, he gradually gets closer to not only the new family but some of his other neighbors as well. This new family softens Ove ... a bit. There is more to Ove than meets the eye.

As I said, this audio book had me laughing right from the start of chapter 1, but there is so much emotional depth to it, in addition to its humor. Both the reader and Parvaneh gradually get to know Ove, and in each chapter, there is both action in the present and Ove's musings about his past that help to explain much of his behavior and demeanor now. I was a tiny bit irritated that Ove kept getting depicted as an "old man" when he's only 59, but that was a very small complaint in an otherwise wonderful book. It was especially engaging on audio, read by actor J.K. Simmons, with both the laughs and the touching moments continuing throughout the novel. I thoroughly enjoyed this hilarious and heartwarming story of a stubborn and cranky man who finds a new purpose in life.

337 pages, Washington Square Press
Simon & Schuster Audio

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.

Listen to a sampleof the audio book, read by actor J.K. Simmons, and/or download it from Audible. The sample is from the start of the novel, a scene with Ove in an Apple Store looking at iPads - hilarious!

You can purchase A Man Called Ove from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, here:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Or you can order A Man Called Ove from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.

And the popularity of the novel means that it is a hot one for movie adaptation!

Here is a trailer for the Swedish movie (with subtitle), a multi-award winner (a few spoilers from early in the novel if you haven't yet read the book):

And if you prefer an American movie without subtitles, Tom Hanks has signed on to produce and star in the Hollywood version!


  1. I’m looking forward to the Tom Hanks version, I did watch the Swedish movie but I didn’t really enjoy it.

  2. This one has been on my shelf for awhile—I really didn’t know or remember that it was funny or heartwarming. For some reason, I had it pegged as bleak, which I am rarely in the mood for. Now, I will make a point of reading it.

    Great, enjoyable review.

    1. Oh, yes - not at all bleak, Jane - I think you'd like it!

  3. Ok. I have avoided this book and I don't know why. Your review and the trailer make me want to run out and get this book! Thank you

    1. I really enjoyed it, Helen - hope you do, too!

  4. See? What did I tell you? Backman is a marvelous story teller!