This was just a funny, sad, emotional and clever feel-good story through and through, about an unlikely and unlikeable (on the surface) old man who doesn’t have a place in the world anymore after losing his wife – the only person he ever loved.
We go with him on his daily inspection rounds, we watch through his window as the damn neighbours go jogging or drive their cars into the residential area (which is NOT ALLOWED! Can’t they read the signs??), and back their trailer into Ove’s mailbox (what kind of grown-ass man doesn’t know how to drive a car with a trailer?!), and we get drawn into this seemingly small and lonely world. And as we do, the world broadens and opens up. The pathetic and helpless neighbours who don’t know how to do anything right, the poor stray cat – they all need Ove’s help.
This is a story about being lost and found, love and friendship and growing old. It’s a story about picking your battles. As we read about Ove’s past and present and see how he was shaped into the man he is today, we see him gradually be reshaped again by the people and animals that come into his life.
I am sure that I both laughed out loud and cried (and sometimes sobbed) every time I picked this book up, even if it was just for 5 minutes. I enjoyed my time in Ove’s world immensely, and I’m sure he will stay with me for a while.
The only thing that bothered me a little is the writer’s distinctive way of describing for instance the way someone was looking at someone. I see what he was going for, but it just didn’t work for me half of the time, and it pulled me out of the story a little – as I started to try and figure out for instance how someone would look calcium deficient or what the facial expression of someone who expects the world to start shooting him with sling-shots is (OK, I can sort of imagine that one, it just seems a bit too specific). But that’s really very minor.
If you like a good story, a good laugh and a good cry – as well as some commentary on the modern world as seen from the POV of a grumpy old man – read this. Read it now.
And, best friend, I’m sorry I waited so long to read the book that you gave me. You clearly knew what you were doing.
NOTE: I read a Norwegian translation of this, so I’m not sure what other translations or indeed the original reads like.