Huzzah! Caprock Public Library had their very first Book Club meeting this month! If you haven’t figured it out yet, this librarian loves books. She loves reading books. She loves sharing books. She also loves people. And talking to said people about said books is the culmination of all that is good. Throw in some chocolate and you get a recipe for happiness. (If your jeans don’t fit in a couple months ladies, you can blame me). All in all, I’m super excited about Book Club!
So today, I’m going to share my review of the book we read entitled, “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman. Right now, you are probably trying to figure out how to correctly pronounce that name…Ove. Let me give you a hint. Pronounce it however you want! We had three different pronunciations amongst our book club readers, and turns out none of them were ‘correct’, even the way I was told to pronounce it wasn’t quite right either! I’ll tell you now, the ‘correct’ pronunciation is a little weird. Want to know what it is? You’ll just have to come by the library and ask me! OR, you can find a helpful little video on YouTube done by ‘Off the Shelf’. But really, you should just come by the library. (Insert unashamed plug for how wonderful our library is and how wonderful books are, and how wonderful reading is for you. End of wonderfully unashamed plug).
The story of Ove takes place in Sweden and follows the life of a man recently forced to retire and living a colorless life after an earth-shattering loss. The storyline hops between Ove’s present day-to-day existence and memories that chronicle his life for us, starting as a young boy up to the present.
“People had always said that Ove was ‘bitter.’ But he wasn’t bloody bitter. He just didn’t go around grinning the whole time. Did that mean one had to be treated like a criminal? Ove hardly thought so.” We start the story thinking our character is an intolerable crank of a grump who speaks his mind, often cynical, and seems to dislike just about everybody, especially cats. Think Walter Matthau in ‘Grumpy Old Men’ and you have Ove. Life is bleak for our main character, until one day a little family moves in next door and knocks over his mailbox with their ‘prohibited in residential area’ vehicle. And from there, things will never be the same. Beautiful chaos ensues involving bossy pregnant women, driving lessons, frozen cats, reporters, and numerous hospital runs.
I personally didn’t take to Ove during the first couple of chapters, which are short, by the way. Have you ever noticed how short chapters give you such a sense of accomplishment, even though you have only read 4 pages? Yeah, I love those kinds of books. Bless you dear editors. Bless you. But I was duty bound as the librarian to finish this book, so I pushed past my initial response to recoil from our cynical leading man. As the author so aptly puts it, “A time comes for every man, when he chooses what sort of man he wants to be. And if you don’t know the story, you don’t know the man,” and I’m so glad I stuck with this book and saw the unfolding of Ove’s story. “He believed so strongly in things: justice and fair play and hard work and a world where right just had to be right.”
Written with sharp witted satire, this book will make you laugh-out-loud and probably shed a few tears by the end. It’s a humorously touching tale of the importance of community and the quality of love to see past people’s exteriors. It reminds us if don’t know a person’s back story, we don’t know the whole person. And sometimes that hard, crusty shell just needs someone to relentlessly tap away at it before we can see the treasure hidden beneath. Even black-and-white grumpy old men who hate cats can have a heart full of love.