Under Cover: “A Man Called Ove” Offers Timely Tale of Friendship

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mancalledoveThis time of year is one when we often reflect heavily on family.

At Thanksgiving, we travel far and wide, enjoy a meal prepared by multiple generations, and remember how thankful we are to have each other.

We share our recipe for Grandma’s Pumpkin Pie, watch the game with Uncle Eddie, and think about those that have both come and gone in our clan since we last were together.

What do you do however, if you have no one? When your family is gone, and you spend your days alone, what joy do the holidays bring?

Recently, there was a story that went viral on the internet, about a little girl named Norah, and her elderly friend, Mr. Dan. The two met when Norah, who harbors a soft spot for members of the older generation, announced to him while at the grocery store, “Hi old person! It’s my birfday today!”

Her comments sparked a conversation that has snowballed into an unlikely, yet tender friendship. It seems that Dan a recent widower, found himself at a bit of a loss without his dear wife, and according to friends, he needed a little Norah in his life most desperately.

For her part, a now four-year-old Norah had previously expressed to her mother, when explaining her affinity for old people, that, “They all gonna die soon, so I’m gonna love ‘em all up before they is died.”

It was one of the sweetest stories I have read in a long time. It also quite reminds me of this month’s Under Cover Book Club

Author Fredrik Backman
Author Fredrik Backman

pick, “A Man Called Ove,” by Swedish author, Fredrik Backman.

Generally, when I select the monthly book club read, I write about it before having read it. My columns are my thoughts about the book before diving in, and I read it along with all of you. This time, however, I must confess that I couldn’t wait.

“A Man Called Ove” was first recommended to me when I read another book by the same author. It sort of kicked around in the back of my mind, until recently, when another friend also mentioned it as a must-read. My curiosity was piqued.  

What a beautiful story awaited me. At the outset, we meet Ove, as curmedgeonly a curmudgeon as there likely ever was. Not a fan of his neighbors, or their pets, Ove is the type of guy who makes rounds through his neighborhood, at the crack of each dawn, to ensure that no cars are parked where they shouldn’t be, no bikes have been left where they oughtn’t, and all rules are, in general, being followed. He is not the type of grandfatherly retiree who inspires many warm and fuzzy feelings.

As the story unfolds, however, we learn that Ove has lost his beloved wife Sonja, and that he is absolutely adrift without her. A taciturn, solitary man by nature, Ove finds that without Sonja, there is no light in his life, and in fact, he makes plans to join her.

As his attempts continue to be foiled by his persistently needy neighbors, Ove slowly begins to make relationships in the most unlikely of places, embracing people and things he never would have before.

We learn more about Ove’s life, the hardships he has endured, joys he has felt, and more than anything else, how important it is for everyone to have someone they love, who loves them in return.

To say I adored the book is an understatement.

It reminded me that during this season, when we pull family close, there are many that are struggling and alone. Men like Ove and Mr. Dan just need someone to care enough to break through their crusty exterior, and show a little kindness.

There are plenty of Oves and Dans out there. May we each be thankful enough for the bounty in our lives to go out and find one.

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