Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

About that man named Ove March 10, 2023

Book cover source: Goodreads

I NEARLY STOPPED READING the book several chapters in. The content weighed on me, so emotionally heavy that I wondered if I could continue. But then the story line began to unfold in a more hopeful way. And I read on.

By the time I reached the final chapter of A Man Called Ove, I was so invested in this book, the characters and relationships that formed, the way lives intertwined to save a life, that I wondered why I ever considered not finishing.

This 2014 international bestselling novel by Swedish blogger and columnist Fredrik Backman now ranks as a favorite book of mine. It made me cry. Correction. Sob. I struggled to read the final pages as tears blurred my vision. It’s been awhile since a work of fiction has spawned such a heart-wrenching emotional reaction.

I challenge you to pick up this book and read about aging Ove and his grief and grumpiness and outspokenness and how the edges of his hardness begin to soften. I laughed. I cried. I worried. I felt hopeful. I cheered. I wanted to give Ove a kick in the pants. I pondered. I related.

The mix of emotions elicited by A Man Called Ove tells me one thing. This is a remarkable book. The writing. The way mental health weaves into the story. There’s no avoidance of hard topics—of bullying and trauma and loss and grief and obsessive compulsive behavior and suicide and the way the mind wraps and detours and struggles and copes.

Into all of this, the author brings hope. In new neighbors. In a mangy cat. In a teen with sooty eyes and a determined journalist and a friend with dementia. I appreciate how, in the end, differences matter not. It’s that kind of book. Real. Honest. Heart-breaking.

I did not see the American movie, “A Man Called Otto,” based on the book. I’ve been told it’s good by some, advised by others to watch the Swedish version instead. Usually I’m disappointed in film adaptations. I haven’t seen a movie on the big screen in many years.

This Sunday evening, movies will be front and center in Los Angeles as “best of” awards are presented at The Oscars. I didn’t find “A Man Called Otto” (or any of the actors/actresses) on a quick scroll through The Academy Awards nominees list. Tom Hanks stars as Otto. I’m not into Hollywood events like this, although certainly they are important to honor those who do outstanding work in their craft. Rather, I prefer books, where I can read and then visualize people, scenes, interactions. My imagination unleashes, prompted by the writing of creatives passionate about the written word.

TELL ME: Have you read A Man Called Ove and/or seen the Swedish or American film based on the novel? I’d like to hear your reactions to either or both.

Thank you to readers Ken and Colleen who suggested I read this book.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


38 Responses to “About that man named Ove”

  1. Sounds wonderful. I’ll have to look it up. There are a few movies out there that I don’t Want to see, simply because I know that whatever is on the screen could never measure up to the book. I prefer the images created in my head as I read.

  2. YES! A million times yes. As you might recall I praised all three forms of this work and each had different strengths. Of course when I read the book I fell in love with Ove despite the tough subject matter. Tom Hanks played him brilliantly, imho. Glad you read and enjoyed. https://itsjustlife.me/when-a-book-becomes-a-movie/

  3. beth Says:

    I’m so glad that you stuck with this, and finished the book, Audrey. thais is the book that introduced me to one of my favorite authors, and I’ve since read every one of his books, and saw the original Swedish film version. my very favorite of his is called, ‘my grandmother told me to tell you she’s sorry.’ like all of his work, it is incredibly moving and leads us to understand why people are who they are, easy to love, or difficult to love.

  4. I have seen the Swedish version of the movie and had not thought about reading the book – have to check it out. This movie resonated with me in the degree of having (4) 70 somethings in our lives that do depend on us on a pretty much daily basis. We make sure they have action, movement, purpose, whatever you call it on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. They need that stimulation, interaction, connection. All four are readers as well as into card games/dominos and one loves crosswords. I have to remember to down low the busy in my life and spend quality time with them as they age – every day is a gift and time is precious. These types of books or movies make you think and sometimes truly resonate with where you are in your own life. Thanks for sharing – great post today! Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

    • Renee, you are so right in that “every day is a gift and time is precious.” As I retype that, I think of my friend Laurel who died two weeks ago today, leaving behind a loving family. Laurel was a year younger than me and battled cancer off and on for 23 years. Through it all, she was an inspiration of how to live life as a gift, that time with her family was precious. That you are caring, interacting, loving on your elders warms my heart. You get it. You understand. Loving everything about this comment.

    • I am so sorry for your loss. I feel like both of us have dealt with too much passing lately.

      I was raised by multiple generations and that instilled in me to be there for my family as well as of service to others.

      • I agree. We’ve both experienced much loss recently. I appreciate your condolences.

        Your family definitely raised you to be a woman of love, compassion and care. I read that in every word you write.

  5. This is on my top favorite list, also. I absolutely LOVED this book, Ove, and his handful of neighborhood characters. I will await a streaming version of “A Man Called Otto,” because I think it will lose a lot in translation from the book, even though I heard rumor Tom Hanks and crew bought the movie rights specifically because he loved the book. I did watch the Swedish version (it’s currently included in Amazon Prime viewing), and it was also good. It’s such a wonderful story and hits all the emotions along the way. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  6. Ken Wedding Says:

    We saw the U.S. movie. (the only movie we’ve seen in a year or two. After reading the book twice, we (my wife and I) thought the movie was wonderfully close to the book in characters, mood, and relationships. Hanks was superb. Ken Wedding, Northfield

  7. Richard B. Says:

    My wife and I saw the movie A Man Called Otto. We loved it, and I am pretty sure my wife was close to tears at the end. A friend’s mother told him to take tissues with him when he went. There are so many themes/subject matters presented, that are just briefly touched upon. The movie just doesn’t have time to do justice to those societal issues. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and hope it becomes a classic that is played on TV on a regular basis. It takes you through a roller-coaster ride of emotions, laughing one moment, then contemplating the many facets of a societal issue, and nearly crying the next.

    • Richard, I appreciate your adding your thoughts to this thread about “A Man Called Otto.” I wish now that I’d gone to the movie based on the reader comments. I would have been right next to your wife crying my eyes out.

  8. lwluetje Says:

    Audrey the movie “A Man called Otto” is based on this book. Saw it recently and thoroughly enjoyed it.

  9. Dawn Tietz Says:

    I did go to the American movie with Tom Hanks and absolutely loved it! I was not so sure that my widow friend and I, also a widow, should go to it, but we did. We laughed and cried.
    I have started the book, but have not finished it yet.

    • Oh, cousin Dawn, I can understand why this movie would be really difficult for you to watch. Laughter mixed with tears can be therapeutic and healing and/or just plain what you need to feel in the moment. It’s good to hear from you!

  10. Thank you, Audrey; I just downloaded the Kindle version, as my library of choice has 125 folks ahead of me. I hope that I have the strength to read it through…

    • That’s a lot of people wanting to read “A Man Called Ove.” I encourage you to press on through the book. Once I got through the beginning, I was OK. It’s not an easy read given the emotions you likely will feel. But it’s so worth pressing on and reading.

  11. Thank you, so much; I will remember your encouragement.

  12. Valerie Says:

    I read the book and saw the Tom Hanks movie. A very interesting and well done story. I’d like to see the Swedish version and am glad to learn that it’s available on Amazon Prime. I’m also interested in reading his book about grandmother mentioned in the comments. Thanks for this post Audrey.

  13. Seen the American movie. Exceptional! It really details how people who have had unspeakable trauma deal with it (or not) and how kindness can be someone else’s savior. I cried. I laughed. I related to the levels of complexity. It should be at the top of the awards list. Although I am not sure which other movies have been nominated. Another one I just today watched was Causeway. It deals with a young female combat veteran who returns to New Orleans (her home before entering the Army) and her journey dealing with brain trauma. They captured how true and real that struggle is and that someone who looks normal can be really struggling. Touching and very good movie. Also how they showed a woman as the main character. Tough Army Chicks. Thanks for the recommendation on the book, I will order and also order tissues at the same time.

  14. Barb Wegner Says:

    I read the book & saw the American movie on a $5 tuesday in Dundas! I liked both very much! I never considered not finishing the book! I think both were worthwhile! Because I had read the book I was not shocked at how the movie moved along! I would recommend both to anyone!

  15. Colleen Gengler Says:

    Thank you for reminding me of the range of emotions in the book! I may have to reread it. I enjoyed both film versions and think both do as well as any film can that’s based on a book. I’m betting your library will soon have the Tom Hanks version since it has been so popular in the theaters. It’s one of the few movies I’ve gone to in an actual theater in recent years.

  16. I know the book is usually ALWAYS better than the movie, but YES… I did see the movie with 2 of my friends, There were big feelings with tears as we watched the movie fold out. Tom Hanks did a wonder job with this character, I’m wondering how much he resembles the Otto from the book. Besides “Otto”, I loved all the characters in the story. It was a good Movie, I may read the book in time.

  17. Mary Taylor Says:

    I read the book recently and loved it… I also recently saw the movie “A Man Called Otto” with Tom Hanks. The movie was very close to the book and excellent. I’m glad I read the book first as there were details in the movie that I might have missed if I hadn’t read the book. Tom Hank’s wife directed the movie and his son played the younger version of Otto. I thoroughly enjoyed both. I also enjoy your writing and your appreciation and passion for so much of life. Thank you!

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