It's time for a feel-good Swedish novel, everyone!
Fredrik Backman's A Man Called Ove tells the story of Ove, a cranky elder who is set in his ways that eventually learns to appreciate - or at least tolerate - his eclectic group of neighbors. There is a lot of friction between him and his neighbors on the way there, however, as Ove is the type of person who is quick to scold anyone who commits minor parking violations in his neighborhood. If someone isn't able to repair their own home appliances, unable to correctly back up a U-Haul trailer, or has the audacity to drive a different brand of car than his own, they are close to worthless in his eyes. The book is peppered with funny observations from the narrator that range from poking fun at his curmudgeonly ways to validating some of his critiques of modern society. As someone that lives in a city and becomes indignant whenever people aren't walking fast enough on a crowded sidewalk, I understand the need to yell at the clouds sometimes.
Despite the somewhat predictable setup, which culminates a little too neatly in a "community coming together to help Ove to thwart a one-dimensional villain" kind of way, this book takes its time to get there and isn't afraid to dwell on the deep well of grief within Ove. It's revealed very early on in the book that his spirited and compassionate wife, Sonja, has passed away, and shortly after her death, he became despondent and suicidal. This quote from the book succinctly describes what she meant to him and why her death was so devastating:
As the book slowly reveals more pieces of Ove's life story, it becomes easier to understand why he treats people the way that he does, and seeing him gradually develop new connections with others is definitely rewarding. Even if this book doesn't fully stick the landing, the rest of the routine leading up to it is worth your time. Does that count as a topical Olympics reference? I'm not even watching the Olympics this year, but I assume that they still do gymnastics.