The grumpy old man
“Once Ove and the cat have had their dinner and watched TV for a while, he turns out the lamp in the living room and goes upstairs. The cat follows watchfully at his heels, as if sensing that he’s going to do something it hasn’t been informed about. It sits on the bedroom floor while Ove gets undressed and looks as if it’s trying to figure out a, magic trick.”
This simple paragraph from the book is quite a welcoming entry into the monotonous life of Ove, who starts his day brewing his perfect cup of coffee and getting ready for an early morning inspection of the street.
He had taken charge of- kicking and checking the firmness of the metal poles on the streets; making sure that none of the houses had been set on fire by vandals; checking the registration numbers of the parked cars to keep a track and inspecting the garbage bins to check whether glass and metal junk have been dumped in their respective places separately, voluntarily to maintain a safe neighbourhood.
Ove is a recently retired grumpy old man who finds fault with everything done by the current generation. He is resistant to change and believes in loyalty, be it driving a Saab all his life rather than buying a Volvo.
According to his thoughts, nobody is good at anything anymore, be it bleeding a radiator, or making a perfect cup of coffee without an expresso machine or even at making rope. The ‘unreserved celebration of mediocrity’ is unbearable for him, as only idiots surround him such as joggers, shop assistants who talk in codes and neighbours who cannot reverse a trailer properly or fall off ladders while fixing a jammed window.
A Man Called Ove is a beautiful and amusing tale of unexpected friendship, dirty cats, and the bygone art of reversing a trailer, which together change the cranky old man gradually. In between the present situation, the author meticulously states the past life of Ove in flashbacks. And, that is when the reader gets to reassess the character Ove has developed into.
His story may account to a few tears rolling down your cheeks as you start sympathising with him for the troubles he had to face. The story slowly unfolds toexplore Ove from a happy child to an unhappy teenager to again a happy person with the entry of Sonja and back to a grumpy old neighbour.
His monotonous life changes as a young and noisy family moves in the neighbourhood and the lady of the house with her practicality straightens him up.
Underneath the crabby old man lies a righteous mind which “is not the sort that tells tales about what other people do.” Ove proves to be ‘the strangest superhero’ like his wife called him once, as he saves a man’s life who had fallen onto a railway track and rescues an old ‘frenemy’ from going to a home.
The story of Ove’s life is neither extraordinary, nor is he a superhero, but yet his tale tells the story of many others who are exactly like him, ignored and unwanted by the society.
With simple language and convincing incidents, the author has been successful at arousing interest in the readers’ mind about a not-so-friendly oldman’s life. Fredrick Backman’s novel on this angry but sweet old figure next door, is a charming exploration of the intense impact somebody’s life has on innumerous others.