A Man Called Ove

by Fredrik Backman

Paperback, 2015

Call number





Washington Square Press (2015), Edition: Reprint, 368 pages


Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon; the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him 'the bitter neighbour from hell'. But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.… (more)

Media reviews

Den svenske suksessbloggeren Fredrik Backman drar oss gjennom en forutsigbar fortelling som trykker på alle de rette knappene inntil vi er trygt plassert innenfor vår egen komfortsone.
4 more
Livet är obegripligt, världen är läskig och det går inte att skydda sig mot den. Fredrik Backman berättar underhållande om botemedlet i sin debutroman.
Genom humorns prisma belyser ”En man som heter Ove” teman som åldrande, vänskap, sorg, livslust och den föränderliga mansrollen. Boken är varken behärskad eller finputsad – delar är återvunna från Café-bloggen och har skarvats in lite slarvigt – men den är en skruvad och gripande romandebut som mycket väl kan vara början på ett stort humoristiskt författarskap.
This word-of-mouth bestseller has sold more than 650,000 copies in Sweden and has been a hit across Europe. It deserves to do at least as well here. I loved A Man Called Ove so much that I started to ration how much I read to prolong my time with this cantankerous, low-key, misunderstood man. If you enjoyed Rachel Joyce’s marvellous bestseller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry, you will love this book. Each short chapter of A Man Called Ove could stand alone as a beautifully crafted short story. Bring the chapters together and you have the most uplifting, life-affirming and often comic tale of how kindness, love and happiness can be found in the most unlikely places
Backman's tale of 59-yea-old curmudgeon, Ove, not only captured the hearts of Backman's fellow Swedes, but has also swept across Europe as a word-of-mouth best-seller; a domino effect that suggests community spirit and social responsibility isn't quite so lacking as we're often told it is....On occasion the slightly repetitive tone becomes cloying, but Backman can tickle the funny bone and tug on the heart strings when he needs to, and is a clever enough storyteller to not overindulge in either. For those of you who don't want your fiction to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, A Man Called Ove isn't for you. Yet it's surprisingly cheering to think how many people have embraced this simple but heartwarming novel.

User reviews

LibraryThing member cathyskye
This is a book that I'd managed to ignore for almost a year. When I keep seeing the same title over and over again on the book websites and blogs that I frequent, I tend to go into avoidance mode. Hype makes me suspicious. It wasn't until recently when someone whose opinion I trust recommended this book that I decided to give it another look. Am I ever glad that I did.

A Man Called Ove runs the gamut of emotions: laughter, exasperation, anger, compassion, fear, love, loss. Those new neighbors of his force him to get involved in something other than his own tunnel-vision plans, and as Ove constantly gets yanked into the lives of others, his backstory is slowly revealed. That backstory makes all the difference in the world because we get to see Ove as a child, as a teenager, as a young man-- and we see why Ove became so mean-spirited.

Some may dismiss A Man Called Ove as a simple "feel good" story. Yes, it does make the reader feel good, but that assessment sells this book short. It is a wonderful characterization and examination of a man's life. It just may get some of us to re-evaluate the curmudgeons in our own lives.

I was stunned to learn that this is a debut novel because it certainly doesn't read like one. I could ramble enthusiastically for several more paragraphs, but I won't. If you've been avoiding Fredrik Backman's book because of the hype, stop. Pick it up and read it. My only warning? Have a family-size box of tissues close at hand when you near the end. You will be crying. Crying for sad... and crying for happy.
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LibraryThing member TheBookJunky
I enjoyed this a lot. My inner curmudgeon (who frequently becomes 'outer') said, "Baahh! Trite sentimental claptrap. The whole story was entirely predictable. Contrived, manipulative, phooey!"
It felt quite churlish to give 3 stars when I must admit that, nonetheless, I did derive a good deal of enjoyment from the story. It charmed me despite myself. I liked the construction of the story, of the flashbacks and subplots intertwining nicely. It had a somewhat stylised and artificial quality that set it apart from others of this ilk.
It reminded me gently that even though a story arc might be predictable, it's the small quirky details, the unexpected twists, the satisfying little revenges, along with grace and humour, that make the story sing. That's a wonderful achievement not easily obtained.

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LibraryThing member jjaylynny
This book could be viewed a few ways:
- an overly twee read about a curmudgeon with a heart of gold who is thawed out by a lovingly diverse group of stereotypes
- an excuse for a lifetime of passive-aggressiveness and misanthropy
- a musing on the effects of childhood trauma
- a story about grief in a person with a personality disorder
Yeah. I wasn't unaffected by it while reading it --shit, you'd have to have a personality disorder not to be moved, but you'd also have to be slightly brain dead not to recognize the manipulation.

Too harsh? I'm going to get roasted at book club.

But my dad had one one the very few Saab 9?s probably in the whole state of Iowa in the 60s so YEAH!
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LibraryThing member bell7
Ove, age fifty-nine recently widowed and let go from his job, just wants to die in peace but life keeps getting in the way: namely, the new family that just moved in and others in the neighborhood keep needing his help and interrupting his suicide attempts. Can't a man die in peace? But as Ove's late wife, Sonja, would have said we have things we're destined to do and just maybe Ove has something to live for yet.

Starting off the book - especially with the suicide attempt - I wasn't quite sure what I was going to make of the story. It's a quirky little book, almost episodic with chapters that bring you along for one story and sometimes delving into the past so you eventually learn quite a bit about this man called Ove, who is curmudgeonly but good-hearted. His neighbors include Parvaneh, Patrick and family; Anita and her husband Rune, Ove's one-time friend now enemy; Jimmy the computer geek; and others. I kept thinking it was set in England because of the use of "bloody" as a swear, but they all live in a housing development in Sweden where one must assuredly - as Ove would say - follow the rules. It's a truly delightful tale that wound its way around my heart, and before I knew it I was crying over the characters. Recommended for readers of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.
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LibraryThing member lit_chick
Book Description: adapted from Amazon.com
In this bestselling and charming debut from one of Sweden’s most successful authors, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon – the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. But behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. When a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. And so one cranky old man is changed, and a local residents’ association shaken to its very foundations.

My Review:
I’ve not had the pleasure of reading any Swedish literature to this point, but A Man Called Ove is indeed a charming and worthy debut. I loved Ove, and I thoroughly enjoyed his gradual, reluctant metamorphosis from curmudgeon to neighbourly granddad. Backman illustrates beautifully the influence that one life has on countless others around it. Am curious what this blogger-turned-author will write next. Highly recommended.

Favourite Quotes:
“People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had.” (Ch 5)

“Of all the imaginable things he most misses about her, the thing he really wishes he could do again is hold her hand in his. She had a way of folding her index finger into his palm, hiding it inside. And he always felt that nothing in the world was impossible when she did that. Of all the things he could miss, that’s what he misses most.” (Ch 8)
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LibraryThing member DavidO1103
Lovely book, about Ove, a grumpy Saab-loving Swede who can fix anything, and has little patience for those who can't. Deeply missed his wife Sophie (? Sophia), and is impatient with new neighbors who include a pregnant Iranian woman and her Swedish husband and their two girls. He has no use for "men in white shirts" -- bureaucrats. Seemingly against his will, he and an assortment of characters worm their ways into each other's lives... Funny, poignant, sad, lovely...… (more)
LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
Let me begin by saying that I love novels that are written about basic human feelings, basic beautiful, “out of the-mainstream” characters, like those in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye, Mrs. Ames, and A. J. Fikry. I loved all of the quirky characters in this book; each had his or her own peculiar trait which created the atmosphere within which a warm and caring community arose. There is no awful violence, brutal sex or very foul language; there is just the milk of human kindness hiding on every page you turn. Sit back and relax. You will smile as you read this, perhaps chuckle under your breath or laugh out loud, and sometimes, you may even shed a tear or two.
The story is about an irascible, but sweet, curmudgeon of a man, a man who sees the world in his own way and believes it his duty to let everyone know it. He is rigid and shows very little outward emotion, but inside, there is a very soft heart. Every day, he mourns the loss of his wife Sonja. She has “chosen” to die before him which isn’t the way it was supposed to happen. He wanted to go first. He doesn’t really know how to live without her; She was everything to him. Enter a new neighbor, Parvenah, and a variety of other odd characters, and then add a woebegone, bedraggled cat to the mix, and watch as life takes on a new meaning for Ove. Slowly, this mix of unusual characters begin to enrich his life, even without his acknowledgment of their effort or little acts of kindness. At first, none of the characters have names, rather they have disparaging nicknames provided by Ove, but as they become identified with their true names, the story’s humanity, as well as Ove’s, is revealed.
His forced retirement from his job because of his health before he was ready to stop working, coupled with the untimely loss of his wife, Sonja, has driven Ove to want to join her. At first, he seems obsessive/compulsive, inspecting the neighborhood, keeping everything just so, following rules to distraction, being essentially overcritical about everything and everyone, expecting perfection and perfect obedience to rules and regulations. Then, once you get to know Ove, you begin to understand who he is and begin to appreciate his behavior. If nothing else, the book is a testimony to the value of those individuals who seem different than the mainstream. They too have the ability to make enormous contributions to society. It is what people do, not what they talk about, that is the measure of the man, according to Ove.
Ove has come up against the bureaucracy many times and he soon begins to feel hopeless and helpless to change things. The cold, unfeeling administrative “white shirts” defeat him at every turn. They make decisions based on regulations that don’t take the individual situation into consideration, that don’t deal with concerns, human need or emotion. Everything to them is black and white. Like Ove, they are following rules, but Ove makes and follows rules for the treatment of inanimate objects, and these “white shirts” make rules for the treatment of human beings, against their wishes. Ove goes to war with the council. Often "the administrative rules are not made for the benefit of the person but for the benefit of the functionaries. So, although both Ove and “the white shirts” concern themselves with following rules, the process and outcome is completely different.

While Ove wants his own authority to be respected, he often does not respect the authority of others in charge because they have a different purpose. The difference in the purpose of each is really what makes this such a beautiful story, if not a fairy tale. In this wonderful novel, everyone is eventually valued for who they are, the things they do, and not the things that are said about them. We discover that underneath Ove’s hard surface is a tenderness that pervades the entire story. He is a man who wants to do the right thing, regardless of the effort involved, regardless of how it interferes with his own needs. He has a “big heart” and always tries to do the right thing!
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LibraryThing member nyiper
This was.....absolutely delightful!!!!!!! I loved the audio, read by George Newborn. There is no way to not have tears in your eyes over the ending---such a perfectly beautifully told story---just thinking about Ove makes with laugh with pleasure ---Sonia was right about that husband of hers. She knew him right from the start and we understand him as well as the story evolves.… (more)
LibraryThing member ctpress
Ove is 59. Grumpy. Stubborn. Set in his ways, steadfast in his principles and with a peculiar sense of justice. He is also very lonely - mourning the loss of his late wife. In steps the persian neighbours - and in particular the woman Parvana. They form an unlikely bond that develops into a friendship - very slowly Ove is about to change. Reluctantly that is.

I didn’t really know what to think of the story at first - was sceptic - but then we begin to hear the back-story of Ove and his life and marriage - and what was only biting slapstick satire at startout became a very moving, funny, weird story - a story with heart and soul - about acceptance and tolerance and a second chance in life.
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LibraryThing member bookandsword
Take out your hankies, because this one is a doozy!

“We always think there's enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like 'if'.”

Some books make me tear up, some books made me cry, and some books make me wail like a baby. The man called Ove is definitely in that last category. I had trouble seeing the last couple of pages of this book I was crying so hard. did this book break my heart? Absolutely! But in the best possible way.

“Ove had never been asked how he lived before he met her. But if anyone had asked him, he would have answered that he didn’t.”

​But don't be fooled, Ove is not the most likable character ever. If anything he is very much on the opposite spectrum. He is set in his ways, he is extremely grumpy and unsociable, and other people to him are either idiots or nuisance, but mostly just idiots.

Now, I love characters like that. Love them! Quirky, weird, unsociable - you name it, I'm here for it. But even for me Ove was hard to handle at times. He wanted to be right even if he was wrong, and sometimes I just wanted to smack him. And no, there wasn't a magical transformation - Ove didn't become a social butterfly, or a lovable old man - he stayed himself, truly and unapologetically himself, just better. And I absolutely loved that.

“He was a man of black and white. And she was color. All the color he had.”

I don't remember how I stumbled upon this book on Goodreads, but I'm so happy that I did, because now I want to read more books by Fredrik Backman, even more so because he is a foreign author. And one of my 2018 resolutions is to read more from non-american authors. The translation was pretty good for it didn't feel like a translated book, it was smooth and flowy, albeit a bit dry, but I think that is the Backman's style.

The thing that surprised me the most, and probably produced the most of the tears, was how at the end I realized that Parvaneh needed him as much as he needed her. This book was just so beautiful on so many levels. Okay, just thinking about it makes me tear up, damn you Backman and your emotional writing!

I absolutely recommend The man called Ove - the book is full of emotions and life lessons. It dives deep into the nature of loss and grief and how we, as humans try to deal with it, each in out own ways.
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LibraryThing member dandelionroots
I appreciated the dark humor and fragments of this story, but overall it fell flat.
LibraryThing member VivienneR
My doctor gave me this book. She had just turned the last page and had to share it with someone. I know how she felt. And even though it might have a moral mixed in with the quirky humour, it's hardly noticeable. After his wife's death, Ove is desperately lonely and more than anything wants to join her, however, each attempt to take his own life misfires. As the story advances Ove and Sonja's story is told. One complaint: Backman has obviously never owned a cat and he got the feline characteristics all wrong. Never mind, the charming characters, including the cat and the curmudgeonly Ove, make up for all the transgressions. By the way, the old curmudgeon is fifty-nine!… (more)
LibraryThing member mlhershey
Disagreeable and predictable
LibraryThing member rretzler
Ove is a grumpy old man who has little tolerance for tailgaters and people who can't do their jobs. One day, a family with two young children and another on the way move in next door. After the father knocks over Ove's mailbox attempting to back a trailer into a no-car zone, Ove's and the family's lives become intertwined. Ove's life is completely turned upside down as he takes in a cat and ends up helping everyone who crosses his path.

When I first started to read this book, I realized that I could be a grumpy old man! I sympathize with Ove over drivers who tailgate, then pass and end up sitting and waiting at the same traffic light at the same time. Like Ove, I also cannot stand to wait in traffic and must always keep moving. It frustrates me when I encounter someone who does not know their job, or whose job I could do just as well. So right from the beginning, I was captivated by Ove. The story of Ove's past is told throughout the book, interspersed with the events of his present day. I did think the book was a little simplistically written at first, but I don't know whether that was due to the translation, or how the author typically writes. It did put me off just a little at first, but the story was so engaging that I soon forgot about it as I was drawn into Ove's life.

A Man Called Ove may end up being one of my favorite books of the year. The front cover claims "You'll laugh, you'll cry..." and I guarantee that's true!
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LibraryThing member joeld
This isn't that long, but it was hard to finish. Dialogue is clearly painful for this writer; scenes are constructed to use the minimum possible, by all characters (not just the cranky old protagonist). Ove is well-sketched (what there is of him), but the characters adjacent to him are props or outlines, and the relationships between them feel uncanny and forced, in large part because the aforementioned lack of dialogue means you don't really get to see them interact except to exasperate each other.

The writer has other annoying mannerisms that indicate he was writing for the screen rather than the page; it may well be that the movie adaptation proves richer and more enjoyable than the book. The cat in particular was clearly written as a Muppet and not a real cat.
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LibraryThing member lgaikwad
I realized a while ago in life that I am often given chances I didn't even know I wanted.

"A Man Called Ove" by Fredrik Backman is all about these kind of chances. It's a book about grief and loss, about the inability to die even if you want to, and about opportunities no one knew they needed and couldn't have hoped for. I couldn't put it down.… (more)
LibraryThing member AudrieClifford
How could anyone love this book?
The main character is a tall, straight-laced Swede who could easily win any contest for grumpiness, but by the end,
I'll bet that you, too, will end up enchanted.
LibraryThing member libraslibros
I was expecting to love this book, but I thought it was just okay. Maybe curmudgeon characters aren't my thing. I liked the interactions between Ove and the cat the best.
LibraryThing member BrendaKlaassen
This book was about how life trips you up and tries to make us change. Sometimes we go along with the changes and other times we fight them every step of the way. Ove did not want to live after he lost his wife, but life kept getting in the way of his death. This story took my emotions on a roller coaster ride. For a serious book, I really am thankful I took the time to read it. I think I will try and read this author again in the future.… (more)
LibraryThing member gogglemiss
I nearly gave up on this book on page 26, as it started slowly, but am I glad that I persevered with this. I laughed, I didn't cry but my heart softened many times, at this beautiful, sad and uplifting tale. Wonderful book.
LibraryThing member EdGoldberg
The last line of Fredrik Backman’s AManCalledOve Acknowledgements at the end of A Man Called Ove reads, “Rolf Backman. My father. Because I hope I am unlike you in the smallest possible number of ways.” That says it all because that’s how I felt about my dad. And if Ove is even remotely like Rolf, Mr. Backman Sr. is worth emulating.

I’ve always said I’ll morph into a curmudgeon when I get older (and my kids notify me that I’m already there). If I do or if I am, I’ll take being compared to Ove as a compliment (as I do when compared to my father). He’s a quiet man. A man who found the love of his life and throughout 40 years of marriage could not understand by Sonja married him. He believed in few things. There is a right and a wrong. There are rules that must be followed. You can, to some extent, judge a man by the car he drives (absolutely!). And a person should be able to care for himself and his possessions-house, car, etc. If you can’t, you’re most likely an idiot. Ove is the type of man who is lost in today’s world of fast talkers, computers and possessions.

And so it is that when Sonja dies of cancer, Ove is lost. The one thing he valued most in this world is gone as are all the little things they did together. Have breakfast in the morning. Go to the café on Sunday morning where Sonja would have coffee and people watch while Ove would read the newspaper. He misses her curling her finger in the palm of his hand.

While alone and lost in the quiet of his house, he is annoyed when he sees someone backing a trailer in the space between his and the neighboring house, ruining his garden and running over his mailbox. To save what remains of his yard, he ultimately backs the trailer up himself. His new neighbors consist of a hugely pregnant Iranian woman, Parvaneh, her ‘idiot’ husband (he can’t back a trailer into a drive), and their three and seven year old daughters.

Little does Ove know the havoc they are going to wreak on his life, borrowing this,MyGrandmother asking that, barging in to his house uninvited, needing rides here, there and everywhere. It is sure to throw a major monkey wrench into his plans.

Backman’s latest book, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry (which I loved), is filled with the kind of quirky characters I love to read about. In A Man Called Ove, Backman has created a character that it is hard not to love. Indeed, Ove is gruff. He’s opinionated. He can harbor a grudge (even after forgetting how it originated). But he loved Sonja more than life itself. He visits her grave every week, changing the flowers, telling her the news, imagining her responses.

I don’t know if Backman has a thing for animals but they pivotal roles in both books. What can be bad about that, right?

I found the translation of this Swedish book to be somewhat halting in nature. And there were several favorite phrases that kept on appearing. But for some reason it added rather than detracted from the book.

It is rare that I read two books by the same author back to back. And it’s rarer that I like the second one more than the first, but that was the case with A Man Called Ove. I’m even considering making it part of my personal library. That says a lot. If you are in the mood for a truly satisfying read, Fredrick Backman is the author for you. I am awaiting impatiently for his next book. I hope it comes out soon.
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LibraryThing member svetlanagrobman
Call me sentimental, but, to me, there’s a lot to be said for a journey directed inward – from a gruff and unrefined appearance to a good and generous soul that, sometimes, resides in rather unlikely places. This is what Fredrik Backman’s novel “A Man Called Ove” (Atria Books, 2014) is about, although the novel’s protagonist never thought of his journey as soul-searching. He longed to end his life, because, in his view, it had lost its purpose and meaning, but annoying neighbors kept interrupting his plan, making it hard for him to die. Poignant and unpredictable, Backman’s book is filled with many twists and turns, as well as enjoyable characters and humorous situations.… (more)
LibraryThing member theeccentriclady
This review is an emotional review. I just finished this book and loved it! I don't want to analyze it, compare it to other books or stories I just want to sit with the satisfaction I feel as I closed the back cover. My heart over flows with love and gratitude. Just read it!
LibraryThing member mountie9
Ok, this one is my new favorite this year. Ove is such a wonderful curmudgeon who will make you laugh and cry. Such a delightfully unique story filled with quirky, yet real characters, and marvelous dialogue. You will find yourself laughing out loud and wanting to tell everyone you meet all about it. Seriously considering picking this as a CEO 100 as I cannot stop thinking about it. I sorta feel bereft now that it is done, I felt like the characters were real and I was part of their world. So many gems of wisdom and commentary on love, death, friendship and grief. Jen nailed it when she mentioned that Sonja and Ove are like the old couple in the animated movie Up. Read this please, you will not be disappointed. I dare you not to fall in love with this grumpy old man and his delicious cast of cohorts.

Favorite Quotes

“We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.”

“The very sort of smile that makes decent folk want to slap Buddhist monks in the face,”

“We always think there's enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like 'if'.”
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LibraryThing member cmbohn
A friend of mine asked, “Everyone out there has a story. Can we love them before we know it? And will we take the time to find out?” That’s the burning question in the book, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

Ove is not an old man, not in years, but he has become the grumpy old neighbor. He complains about everything and everyone. Some days he only talks to complain. Other days he doesn’t talk at all.

He wasn’t always like this. He used to be less grumpy. Not warm and friendly, but not so prickly and angry. That was before Sonia died. Now Ove is ready to give up on life. But life, in the form of new neighbors, a homeless cat, and a couple of teenagers, is not ready to give up on him.
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