A BOOK REVIEW
I have just finished reading A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, a wildly popular novel that everyone but me loves. It was sweet and heart-warming and obviously made for the movies. But why did the writer pick a name no one can pronounce? Hint: it does not rhyme with oy vey.
When I finished this book, there was nothing left. No new insights into human behavior, no profound thoughts. I collected no inspirational quotes. It was not lyrical, beautiful writing. The wrap-up was predictable. My fingers closed on water. I was left feeling as though the writer had never really met a curmudgeon or known a cat.
The cat in this book bore no resemblance to any cat I have ever met in 66 years of owning cats. Even Monty, my charming, people-oriented, bookstore dog-cat, would be challenged to play the role in the movie. The cat in the book, as has been noted by other critics, acts more like a dog following people around and jumping into cars. Yes, cats will follow you around, and they will explore a car if the windows were left down…but jump in the car to go someplace with you?? Monty is the only cat I have known who enjoys riding in a car.
Also, I have known a few curmudgeons in my life and I have never seen one change. I have learned what created the hostility. I can understand that. Life dealt them a bad hand and they felt obliged to pass it along. But none of them ever softened and no one liked them for very long. I could write “A Man Called Howard.” Howard once smashed a car’s side view mirror because it stuck out in his way as he squeezed between two cars in a parking lot.
Fredrik Backman made a rather strained effort to make A Man Called Ove politically correct. He included one of everything. In the end they were all wonderful, not some good and some eh, like a real box of chocolates.
From the blurbs: “for that afternoon when all you want is charm.” – So true. “Lyrical language.” – False. “Hysterically funny.” – False. “…an uplifting exploration of the unreliability of first impressions.” – True. “Life is sweeter when it is shared with other people.” One hopes for that, but life can skew your plans faster than the blink of an eye and you may have unwrapped “bitter” instead.
I have been told that “A Man Called Ove” is a really good movie. I will let you know if the charm can overcome the fantasy. Nevertheless, maybe we NEED more uplifting stories these days. Stories full of love and redemption and hope. Something that can show us how it can be to fully accept people in all their glorious craziness.