I’ve had a copy of A Man Called Ove in my to-be-read pile for quite a while. Finally, I got an audio copy and began listening to it on a long drive.
I could NOT stand Ove.
There were one or two flickers of seeing something worthwhile in him, but overall, I simply found him to be a miserable human being. And I wondered why so many people raved about this book.
I was tempted to give up, but I had more driving to do and, well, what the heck.
I finished the story last night and I LOVE Ove.
Which, I think, is the point.
A story about a grumpy old man who turns out to have a heart of gold is NOT a new idea. But Frederik Backman managed to take what could have been a simple story of redemption and elevated it to a deep message of hope and love.
Ove was awful at the beginning and he was still pretty awful at the end. I mean, the poor guy who sold him an iPad would not have gone home and talked about dealing with a curmudgeon who was really a marshmallow inside. Ove was vindictive, unbending, impatient, and deeply set in his ways.
And yet. He was also fiercely loyal, ethical, and willing to stand up for what he believed to be right even if it killed him. Backman retained the essence of Ove even after he was redeemed.
Which is why I found this book so ultimately hopeful. The message wasn’t that Ove needed to change, rather it was that Ove needed to be appreciated. He didn’t change so much as the people around him came to see the beauty inherent in this big, tough Swede.
I like that.
Too often, I suspect we think the people around us (especially the people we disagree with) need to change. But maybe, just maybe, if we were willing to understand what makes people see the world the way they do . . . we could–if not agree–at least understand.
And then, perhaps we could see the value in everyone.