From the first page onward, Fredrik Backman introduces the reader to a grumpy old man. It took me time to warm to this curmudgeon who gets interrupted several times in the first few chapter when he tries to commit suicide.
Ove is a stickler for rules. All rules. In his community he is a self-appointed watchman who patrols the neighborhood for any tiny infraction. A bike not put away, someone driving where no cars are allow, noise, dogs on leashes, children. All he wants, we learn in the first part of the book, is to join his wife. This love of his life, this woman who loved him and saw something in him he didn’t see in himself, has died a few years before. She’s taken the color in the world with her, leaving behind a black-and-white man with few friends and little reason to live.
This stark description would have been enough to send me running to my bookshelves for a different read. I’m glad I persisted, but the book is full of wry humor, the reluctant drawing of a man out of a shell of his own making, of people other than his dear wife Sophia see value in him. He bends a little to help a neighbor or two, causing him to postpone his exit from life.
I’m glad I stuck it out. This Swedish writer gives us a portrait of a man who can be likeable in spite of himself. When I closed the cover at the end, I thought about Bill Murray playing Ove. Don’t know why, but I did. I recommend this book. It’s worth the investment in time.