Call it a reality check or whatever, the present book market is certainly flooded with crime dramas, psychological thrillers, and murder mysteries. These days, every alternate writer is adamant to pen down a gut-wrenching, spine-tingling, never-thought-before crime. Probably because thrillers have become the fastest route to have a screen adaptation. Believe me when I say this. After reading three NY Times bestselling psychological thrillers, my nerves were trampled. I wished for a respite and A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman paved my escape route.

In an unflatteringly simple premise, Backman crafts an intricate mesh of human emotions through narrating the life of Ove in his travails with love, loss and loneliness. Fascinating and brimming with ordinariness, A Man Called Ove is a marvellous blend of tragedy and comedy. There lingers a hypnotic charm in this book. Maybe for the delicate language that lets me fondle that rabbeting grief of Ove, or perhaps the simplicity has played the trick. This novel is emotionally hatched and walks through a beautiful transformation.

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Coming to the core storyline; Ove is old. He is that stickler old man in the neighbourhood who glowers at your gullible negligence as if you’ve stolen his rations. He presumes everyone around like an idiot, alien to discipline and goodwill and is just clinging to the useless luxury of being alive. Over the years, harassed and betrayed, he keeps an indocile jar of disgust for the bureaucrats. Ove is 59, has lost his wife and his job. He is alone and cooped up in his kettle of perfect gloom. Ove is cranky. Ove is bitter, for he feels to be playing all alone with the ball of injustice. I am sure, we all have met at least one Ove in our life; the never-hesitant, fault-finding old man.  

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However, all bitter said and done, beneath that impassioned façade, Ove is grieving, slowly dissipating by his wife’s absence. He finds living difficult without Sonja and tries to commit suicide. And there the drama begins. Ove’s first attempt is chucked out by his recently moved in Iranian neighbours. An imprudent pregnant woman with her two daughters and a husband who cannot even park his car properly. Then on, many mundane comical incidents show up, one after another, and every attempt of suicide is interrupted somehow.

The grumpy old man who seems to be a pest in the beginning gradually tucks himself in with his neighbours in a unique bond of love and friendship. The story flows like a stream of love and kindness. While the pages from Ove’s past makes us realize the fickle nature of life and death, Ove’s present life kindle the flame of hope. Backman has stitched the tinge of friendship and family in a unique and explicable manner.

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A Man Called Ove is a beautiful experience of life; love, loss, unnamed bonds of affection. It is a kind of novel where you feel the flesh and blood of humans running through words. Slow, dramatic, dripping with empathy and unparalleled honesty. As the saying goes, all the glitters are not gold. In Ove’s case, all that is black is not fossilized coal. There trails a beautiful tale untold; making you laugh and sob all at once.

Book: A Man Called Ove
Author:  Fredrik Backman
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Atrayee Bhattacharya, Criticspace Journal
Published by: Scepter publishers

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