Sierra's View: A Man Called Ove (Book Club!!) // Sierra's Book Reviews

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Man Called Ove (Book Club!!) // Sierra's Book Reviews

Like I mentioned last month, I love being in a book club. I am excited to be the co-host with Bonnie this month for the novel "A Man Called Ove" by Fredrik Backman. 

Genre: Realistic Fiction
Rating: 5/5 stars (see more on GoodReads)
Summary: Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor 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.

My thoughts: 
One thing that is so interesting to me about book clubs is that I come away from them with such a different perspective than I did before going in. This novel caused such an interesting discussion because some members of the group did not love the cheesiness that accompanied this story. Call me a romantic (okay, I am one!) but I loved it. I loved the heartfelt, compelling story that showed that even a horrible man like Ove, all have a good side, even if it's in unconventional ways. I think that Ove's character is incredibly unlikeable. In a way, almost painful. He is, frankly, horrible. He is a bitter old man (although the book said that he was 59? Since when is that considered old? That was a bit confusing) who clearly has a lot of negative emotion to work through. For me, I wanted to learn about his past. I know that Ove was stuck in his ways because of experiences that we went through. So, for me, I wanted to keep reading so that I could understand WHY he was acting that way. I don't think that Ove could have  carried the story alone. I think that he needed some serious help from his hilarious neighbors, if that makes sense. With that, my favorite character in the story is Paravaneh. I loved her. So much. I loved that she was feisty and annoying, but you loved her in spite of them. I loved that she didn't take Ove's crap. She added some pizzazz and realistic nature to the story,  in my opinion.

The way that Ove talks about his and Sonja's relationship will tear at any female's heartstrings. It is clear that he felt that she married way below her level. In his mind, Sonja was perfect because she had passed on. And although that was a little annoying, for me, it was endearing. When someone passes on, you tend to just remember the good things. I hope that my husband thinks of our memories and me the way that Ove does with his spouse.

In the story, Ove mentions that when you don't share sorrow, it can drive you a part. That is what happened with him and his neighbor Rhune. I think that this is SO true. Often times when someone is going through a hard time, they need someone to step up and in a sense say "I'm here for you. I've been through this." These types of trials either make or break a relationship. Unfortunately, for Rhune and Ove, the death of a loved one, tore them apart. I have seen this happen in my own life and the lives of so many others, so I could relate to this part of the story immensely.

Oh, the cat. I love the cat. The cat symbolized, in my opinion, Sonja. Ove talks about her love for cats and when he meets cat, he feels a sense of duty to take care of it...for Sonja's sake. I actually thought it was funny because he IS a cat. He is fickle and particular--cats only like you if they choose to like you, and that's exactly what Ove does. I felt that they were companions and that he could subconsciously, relate to this cat. The saab. The stupid Saab. So annoying. I wanted the author to shut up about it! But the Saab symbolizes his unwillingness to change. Also, the fact that he put his heart and soul into that car and it was something that he prided himself in.

All in all, this book was not perfect. It had many flaws. It wasn't written amazingly well (was it translated from Swedish, by the way? We were wondering that in book club? I know he is a Swedish author...), One's grumpiness, for me, got quite annoying (Like...we get are pissed off at the world! Ha) and the idealism that correlates with this story can be unrealistic. But, honestly, I loved it. I found myself crying towards the last few pages because it just made me want to be a better person. As cheesy as that sounds. I loved seeing the beauty of change in mankind and all the wonderful things that can happen when you have a "village that loves you."

Some of my favorite quotes from the novel: 

...all people at root are time optimists. 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.'

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.

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

And then he utters seven words, which Parvaneh will always remember as the loveliest compliment he'll ever give her. "Because you are not a complete twit.” 

But sorrow is unreliable in that way. When people don’t share it there’s a good chance that it will drive them apart instead.

You only need one ray of light to chase all the shadows away

Bonnie's thoughts: 
So I think I must have been the person who Sierra was referring to who didn't like the cheesy, romantic story.  Don't get me wrong!  I love a good story that tugs on the old heart strings.  But I did have a few problems with A Man Called Ove mainly in that everything wrapped up a little too perfectly for me at the end.  It was like we just wrapped all our problems up and put beautiful little bows on them and placed them underneath the Christmas tree and isn't life just perfect?  One book club member said she appreciated that because so little is that way now- in real life and in our media- so it was refreshing to read something that tied up perfectly even if, admittedly, it wasn't realistic.  I can see that.  I guess I had to suspend my sense of reality a little bit to "buy" the end of the book.

For me I also struggled with the book because there was so little plot.  I get that it's a character driven story, but I would have liked something to happen.  I was much more interested in the back story, and found that to be my driving force in reading the book.  I really enjoyed reading about Ove and Sonja's relationship (although it did bother me a little that someone as perfect as Sonja would marry someone as grumpy and mean as Ove) and I really enjoyed the backstory of Ove and his dad.  Those were the parts of the story that propelled me forward- the present story line was pretty boring for me.

I think the main take away from the book and the thing that I liked about it was Danica mentioned that in  real life it's hard to give people like Ove much of a chance because they're so grumpy and mean and we're just like, "Ugh!  Old grumpy people.  Just learn to be nice!"  I think the most interesting conversation stemmed from that- that "being nice" is different for different people and that we don't have to ask people to "be nice" on our terms.  For example, Ove is a very thoughtful, considerate person in a lot of ways (he lets the boy who has been kicked out of his house live with him, he takes care of the stray cat, drives Paravenah and Patrick to the hospital) but he isn't nice in the conventional, obvious way.  He allows himself to be a good person in the way that he sees it, not in the way that the world values "good people" or "kindness".

Cute girls at our book club meeting (I somehow am ALWAYS in workout clothes...) 

Some questions you can answer in your post are:
1. What did you think about Ove and Sonja's relationship? How do you think it affected him?
2. In the story, Ove mentioned that when people don't share sorrow, it can drive them apart. This happens to him and his friend Rhune. Do you think that this statement is true?
3. Who is your favorite character in the story?
4. Is Ove likable enough to carry the story?
5. Did you see any symbolism in the cat or the Saab?

Or you can just talk about some of your thoughts from reading! I would love to know your thoughts!

Sierra's Other Book Reviews: Go Set a Watchman // These Is My Words //  Intuitive Eating // Happier at Home // Happiness Project // Wild // Elizabeth Smart: My Story  

Come join us next month, either online or in real life, for book club! :) 

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