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