“To love someone is like moving into a house,” Sonja used to say. “At first you fall in love in everything new, you wonder every morning that this is one’s own, as if they are afraid that someone will suddenly come tumbling through the door and say that there has been a serious mistake and that it simply was not meant to would live so fine. But as the years go by, the facade worn, the wood cracks here and there, and you start to love this house not so much for all the ways it is perfect in that for all the ways it is not. You become familiar with all its nooks and crannies. How to avoid that the key gets stuck in the lock if it is cold outside. Which floorboards have some give when you step on them, and exactly how to open the doors for them not to creak. That’s it, all the little secrets that make it your home. ”
There are so many things to love about books, but I think the number one thing is their transportive quality – how they can whisk us away to a different time and/or place in a matter of seconds. What’s more – they can transport us to a totally different mindset. A book can force us to see the world from a perspective totally alien to our own. This is why, unsurprisingly, readers are generally more empathetic and open-minded than non-readers.
I say all of this because this book was a double whammy in terms of mental transportation. Not only does it take place in suburban Sweden, but the story is told from the point of view of a deeply depressed and taciturn man – Ove*. Recently widowed and unemployed, Ove believes he has no reason left to live and is busy plotting his own demise, but finds that life continues to call him in unexpected ways. Rather than relating to the main character, the reader finds herself holding on to the peripheral characters – notably Parvaneh – a neighbor who sees something in Ove and refuses to let him succumb to his grief, and Sonja – Ove’s beloved dead wife whom we get to know in flashbacks. It mostly works.
*For this reason, this book was completely and thoroughly nixed by my book club. Unfortunate because I think most of them would have really liked it and we would have had a lot to discuss.
Overall, I mostly enjoyed this book, but I have to wonder if my experience was done in a bit by too much hype. I thought it was a fine book, but not a great book and not one I need to shout from the rooftops or make all my friends read. It told a fairly well-trod story – a lonely loner discovers the importance of emotional connections.
I would like to see the film adaptation. I’ll admit it…I cried just watching the trailer.