Book Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman


A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Bekah Redinger, Staff Writer

Fredrik Backman’s novel, A Man Called Ove, is is a story about the old man everybody knows. Ove is a cranky old man who lives alone after the death of his wife Sonja. He spends his days patrolling his neighborhood, ensuring that everyone he meets is complying with the rules. One day, when a family with two young children moves into his neighborhood, Ove’s world is turned upside down. This story opens doors for Ove to see into the lives of others in a way he never before has, and gives readers a way to get to know the people we’ve all met but never understood.


Ove’s neighborhood is a snapshot of the world and of life in the new century. Characters like Parvaneh, an pregnant immigrant mother of two, who is fiercely protective and kind, and her “lanky” husband Patrick, who works as an IT consultant, are the kind of everyday family that can have an extraordinary impact on the life of someone who need it, like Ove. As Parvaneh’s family grows closer to Ove, he learns that relationships with other people, especially those who will love and help you, are what make life worth living. In addition to that, Ove begins to see that when other people help you in your own life, the best way to repay that kindness is to help others, such as Adrian, who Ove helps fix a bike to impress a girl, or Mirsad, the closeted gay man who Ove takes in after he is kicked out of his home. Ove even learns to care for a scruffy stray cat who won’t seem to leave him alone. By the end of the book, Ove has found something he thought he’d lost: a family.


A Man Called Ove exploded into popularity in America months after its initial release in Sweden, staying on the American bestseller list for 42 weeks. The film, which was made in Swedish, was nominated for an Academy Award for “best foreign film” in 2015, and won many European film awards in 2016, likely for its heartwarming and realistic portrayals of daily life.

The novel’s main shortcomings fall solely to the style of writing, which, to a native English speaker, can feel choppy and simplified. It’s obvious that the book is a translation from Swedish, but the message and plot is still readable and enjoyable. Once a reader gets past that, however, and if they are able to stomach repeated mentions of suicide attempts and themes of death, the reader can start to listen to the book’s moral. Overall, A Man Called Ove is a touching story of a life lived and a life worth living. Despite its somewhat cheesy message, the book is truly a heartfelt reminder of why we need other people, and how we can choose to live our daily lives to the fullest.