“People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had.”
The raves and reviews on this book told me to pick it up, but there was something about this novel that had me doubting I would like it. However, the joke is on me, because by the time I finished the audiobook (3 days, start to finish) I had tears in my eyes and love in my heart for a man called Ove.
Ove (pronounced oo-vah) is a cantankerous old gentleman who likes order, maintenance, surveillance, and Saabs. He sees things in black and white- rules are rules, and if you are going to do something, it needs to be done right the first time. So when his new neighbors drive through his residential area and flatten his mailbox with their trailer, Ove is not happy. His plans are interrupted, his young neighbors clearly don’t know how to back up a trailer (inexcusable!), and now his has to fix his mailbox. His new neighbors are apologetic, embarrassed, and a tense at each other, but Ove’s grumping doesn’t put them off. Ove actually ends up helping them out, and for reasons he can’t understand, they’re actually friendly to him. Nonetheless, Ove doesn’t have time for pleasantries. He’s got things to do.
Then, he’s interrupted again. This time by a newspaper kid who asks about Ove’s wife, Sonja. He’s not sure why, but when the kid tells him he’s really sorry to hear about her illness and passing, that she was a wonderful teacher who got him to read Shakespeare, Ove’s annoyance with him minutely lessens. Before he knows and understands why, he’s offering to help the kid out fixing up a bicycle. He figures he can squeeze it into his schedule, and still accomplish what he needs to get done.
And so the story goes, with Backman revealing layer by layer this grumbling geezer who has a very sweet and adorable past built around his late wife. Backman goes into detail about where Ove grew up, what his family life was like, how he came to be the man he was, how strongly he felt about craftsmanship and his Saabs. In between every anecdote, you see how much Ove loved Sonja, and how lonely and little purpose he felt without her, and how just a few people could put some color back into his life.
I fell pretty hard for this novel. It’s cleverly written, the pace is excellent, and the story keeps you guessing where the plot is going to take you. I loved the recollections in the novel, and how everything was rather straight forward, just like Ove. Very fitting. I highly recommend the read, and am certainly keeping this one in my personal library!