A few weeks ago, just after finishing Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, I told you that I would be hanging out in the Rainbows and Unicorns section of the bookstore for a while. I needed a break from literary despair.
Well, guess what? While in the Rainbows and Unicorns section, I found the PERFECT book to cleanse my reading palate: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. I need to say that usually I steer wide and clear from any book that has “heartwarming” as part of its description, but this book was an exquisite bowl of orange sorbet between my usual courses of doom and gloom.
There’s a catch, however. This is a novel about grief.
You’re probably scratching your puzzled head right about now, but you’re going to have to trust me. This is an utterly charming, often hilarious, very heartwarming book about grief.
The title character, Ove, is a curmudgeon in every sense of the word. His main activity is policing his community and criticizing his neighbors for minor infractions. Over the course of the novel, the reader learns about how he came to be so cantankerous and also follows his reluctant but growing relationships with others.
Truthfully, this has all the elements of a book that is much too sweet. But the author manages to avoid being excessively darling, mostly by inserting bits that are laugh-out-loud funny. I even read some of the comedic parts out loud to my family at the dinner table.
If you’re looking to try a book in translation, this one provides a great opportunity. It was originally published in Backman’s native Swedish, and I didn’t even realize that this was a translated novel until I finished.
Reading and enjoying this book made me think about novels that find you at just the right moment. I’ve thought about why I like certain books, and often it comes down to pacing or depth of character. But what about timing? Does the WHEN of a reading experience matter as much as the WHAT?
I did a little googling about the author, and it turns out that he began writing about Ove on his blog. Needless to say, I love reading about bloggers who become published authors. You can find an interesting interview with him here.