A Man Called Ove – 3 Stars

As I close A Man Called Ove, I have to admit the ending was the strongest, most emotive portion of Fredrik Backman‘s 2014 novel.

Ove, the narrator,  is a stubborn man learning to navigate a life without​ his wife – an enduring marriage suddenly half empty – now missing her love and her laugh. The reader is walked through how Ove tries to redefine his days, whether by living them or not.

I found myself a bit surprised that the book I’ve been carting around reading is, in fact, an international best seller. Ove is an only mildly complex character – a grumpy, fatigued, lonely and obviously depressed man – newly widowed. While these traits were obvious, Ove and his fellow characters were, in my opinion, only shallowly developed.

Even halfway through A Man Called Ove, I would have expected the novel to have been shelved in the Young Adults section rather than in Fiction alongside the classics. Not to say that incredible reads aren’t lined up neatly with the Young Adults books – quite the opposite. I say this simply as a reflection on the style of writing.

Beyond my criticism, A Man Called Ove was an entertaining read with the necessary pits, arcs, and triumphs that every reader expects. The story structure is intact, if leaving, for me, something to be desired.

Rating: 3 out 5 stars

Sing You Home

I finished this week a book that’s going to stay with me. I wouldn’t say I read obsessively, but I read a lot. Usually about a book a week. This particular week began with Jodi Picoult’s Sing You Home, saw a bit of Ian Vasquez’s Mr. Hooligan and is currently finishing with N. H. Kleinbaum’s Dead Poets Society.

The particular one I had to take more time to reflect on is Sing You Home. As someone who tries to read a bit from every genre, I can appreciate a wide variety of styles. It was the story and characters here, above all, that truly touched me though.

Picoult takes her time telling Zoe’s story. It’s a long book, maybe 400 some odd pages, but every page was worth my time. I can’t always say that about an author. I digress… Zoe walks across the pages of the first few chapters as a struggling wife, struggling to have a baby with her husband of ten or so years. After too many miscarriages, still births and heartaches, Zoe’s husband throws in the towel on their marriage. They’re no longer seeing eye to eye and things are falling apart, as often happens when a family loses a child. This is a pivotal moment for Zoe. Divorce is. She’s lost her son and her husband in one fell swoop and somewhere along the while, nearly loses herself.

The next section of the story reveals Zoe’s re-discovery of her values and dreams. She doesn’t need a husband to have a baby. All she needs is a loving home to raise a child within. Along the way, she meets someone new, as happens in so many Picoult novels, but this time it’s different. Zoe finds herself falling for an old acquaintance who has become her confidant when Zoe was at her lowest. They  fall for one another and the story takes another powerful turn because Zoe finds herself in a woman’s arms, Vanessa’s, for the first time in her life. And, for the first time, she really finds herself.

The last section of the novel describes just how hard a woman born to be a mother will fight for her child. During Zoe’s first marriage, she and her husband had a few embryos frozen so that they could continue to try to have children. It hadn’t worked…. for them.  Vanessa could carry her baby though. The overarching conflict arises here when the fertility clinic reminds Zoe that they’ll need her ex-husband, a born-again Catholic, to sign off on the embryo being used. What could be a simple, giving moment turns into a lawsuit broadcast nation-wide with everyone involved biting their nails.

A page turner, for sure, but more than that, Sing You Home, forces the reader to evaluate for him or herself the value of equality, of love, of gender and of sexuality. What truly puts the concepts in perspective is Picoult’s choice to rotate the narrator of each chapter so the reader is able to recognise various individuals’ point of view.

Learn more about the book on Picoult’s website.

And for good merit, as this is my photography blog, here’s a real gem for you to enjoy–an image filled with love and beautiful boys.