A Man Called Ove: A Journey That Began When Mr. AMB Asked His Wife For Help (As He Should!)

OveVia Mr. AMB:

I didn’t like the books I was reading and so, like the curmudgeon I can be, I complained about it to AMB. She handed me her Kindle, which contained Fredrik Backman’s debut novel, A Man Called Ove.

Ove is the quintessential strong, silent type, the sort of man who can “take responsibility for things and fix a water heater if necessary.” However, with the loss of his wife and his job, he has lost his purpose. As a result, he sets about using his practical skills to engineer his exit from life. Whenever he’s about to go through with it, though, his pesky neighbors intrude upon his abode, forcing him to take responsibility for their problems.

If viewed solely through a plot summary, A Man Called Ove is predictable and sentimental. But dwelling on how the plot of A Man Called Ove is predictable is like dwelling on how the plot of A Confederacy of Dunces is implausible: it shows the reader has missed the point of the story.

As I was reading A Man Called Ove, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to A Confederacy of Dunces. Ove is, most assuredly, a “genius” in the sense of Jonathan Swift’s quote that inspired the title of John Kennedy Toole’s work: “When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.” Both novels deftly and hilariously demonstrate the sheer absurdity that assails us continually in the course of human interaction. The difference, however, is that Toole’s Ignatius Reilly is utterly useless whereas Ove is just the man for the job, whatever the job may be. Correspondingly, Ignatius finds his solace in The Consolations of Philosophy, whereas Ove finds his by doing handiwork.

In the end, Ove gets much closer than Ignatius in actually applying Boethius’ lesson in The Consolations of Philosophy: “Nothing is miserable unless you think it so; and on the other hand, nothing brings happiness unless you are content with it.” The path that Ove takes from misery to contentment may be predictable, but it is a worthy, fulfilling journey.

For more on A Man Called Ove, see these reviews (the ones that encouraged AMB to buy the book, which she still hasn’t read for some bizarre reason):



  1. I love that feeling of recommending or giving the perfect book for someone.

    I haven’t read A Man Called Oved or A Confederacy of Dunces, but I certainly wouldn’t think to compare them based on their plot descriptions!

  2. Ove sounds like a delightful man. I’d love to meet him because we would get along so well. WE think the same:
    “Nothing is miserable unless you think it so; and on the other hand, nothing brings happiness unless you are content with it.”

    This is basically one of my life philosophies. It must be one of the secrets to my happiness and general zest for life.

  3. Once again, a publisher has priced an ebook much higher than the paperback, and I’m grumbling and growling. It’s an ebook. I am not paying for inventory or shipping or paper and ink. Why should anyone have to pay $11.99 for bits and bytes? Yes, the author should get paid. But Simon and Schuster is screwing the reader by putting this high price on an electronic copy.

    Only yesterday, I was going over last month’s Amazon charges. Yikes! I really have to stop buying anything I want, whenever I want it. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to let this book pass until that price comes down. I simply cannot justify the expense, no matter how good the book is. 😦

  4. Love it! I gave my husband The Martian for Christmas, and he was dubious at first, but once he started it, he read it in a few days, instead of his usual “keep it on the nightstand and read a page a night” for a year!

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