I suppose we all have days where we think to ourselves, “The world is a fine place, except for the people.” There’s nothing wrong with having days like that, unless you’re Ove and it’s every day.
Ove lives in a black and white world. People are soft, people are lazy, people have no skills, people drive the wrong cars, people don’t follow rules, people are out to swindle and inconvenience him. Essentially, with the exception of his late wife, people have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Or dogs. Or cats. Or children. They barely qualify as people.
And yet, in Ove’s Swedish neighborhood of row houses, there is one person determined to connect with him. His new neighbor, Parvaneh, “The Pregnant One.” She’s married to the equally affable Patrick “The Lanky One.” Most people are beneath Ove’s notice for him to even learn their names.
Yes, he’s cranky. Yes, he’s infuriating. But though it’s easy to be as dismissive with Ove as he is with everyone else, you cannot help but pity him and wonder why? Why is he like this? And so you read on in this witty character study of a man who is, for better or worse, shackled to his principles to the point of obsession. Why? Because in his mind, they are the only things that have never failed him.
Having principles does have its benefits. A person of principles is not a hypocrite. A person of principles is honest. A person of principles does not abandon someone he can help. Even when helping someone can ruin all his plans for the day. Very important plans.
You will want to slap Ove. You will want to slam the door in his face. But you will also want to save him. He’s worth saving. Everyone is worth saving.
“You know, Ove, sometimes one almost suspects you have a heart…”
P.S. There is a Swedish movie based on the book, available for viewing on Amazon Prime. An American version, with Tom Hanks as Ove, is currently in production.