Book Review: A Man Called Ove

Every morning for the almost four decades they had lived in this house, Ove put on the coffee percolator, using exactly the same amount of coffee as on any other morning, and then drank a cup with his wife. One measure for each cup, and one extra for the pot–no more, no less. People didn’t know how to do that anymore, brew some proper coffee. In the same way as nowadays nobody could write with a pen. Because now it was all computers and espresso machines. And where was the world going if people couldn’t even write or brew a pot of coffee?”

★★★★★

It took me such a long time and I finished it right at the end of the year, but I think I may have found my favorite book of 2018. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman follows the story of Ove, a curmudgeonly old miser who doesn’t get along with anyone. Of course, Ove is forced to interact with a wide variety of colorful characters and one small cat that Ove is not at all pleased about. Backman weaves a beautiful tale and breathes life into even the seemingly simplest of characters. The chapters jump back and forth between Ove’s present day and his past to tell a beautiful love story between a quiet, principled man and his vibrant, caring wife.

The Good:

  1. Who doesn’t love a great redemption arc? Throughout the story, Ove transitions from depressed old miser to depressed old miser with empathy and a dash of self-awareness.
  2. I’m really not into cars, but there is a surprisingly beautiful theme throughout the book that ties Ove’s relationships to his relationship with his Saabs. In fact, just go to chapter 28 and read the whole thing. Backman weaves such a fantastic parallel between Ove and his neighbor Rune’s cars that you don’t even realize what his original point was until the end of the chapter and everything clicks into place.
  3. It is written beautifully and the translator did a fantastic job.
  4. “He never understood why she chose him. She loved only abstract things like music and books and strange words. Ove was a man entirely filled with tangible things. he liked screwdrivers and oil filters. He went through life with his hands firmly shoved into his pockets. She danced.”
  5. It’s just so sweet and sad and I hate it and I love it for making me feel these things.

The Bad:

  1. The ending is pretty cheesy. Don’t get me wrong I still bawled my eyes out and enjoyed it, but it was still kind of corny.
  2. I just can’t handle the death of a spouse trope. So many tears!
  3. End of list.

In conclusion, if you are ready to cry go read this. I obviously couldn’t go into too much detail to keep this spoiler-free, but just trust me. Read this.

Review: Turtles All the Way Down

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“I realized in the silence that followed that I hadn’t spoken since answering Davis’s compliment about my shirt. Davis, Daisy, and Mychal eventually went back to talking about Star Wars and the size of the universe and traveling faster than light. ‘Star Wars is the American religion,’ Davis said at one point, and Mychal said, ‘I think religion is the American religion,’ and even though I laughed with them, it felt like I was watching the whole thing from somewhere else, like I was watching a movie about my life instead of living it.”

S U M M A R Y

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green is a novel that on the surface is about a girl named Aza who, with her friend Daisy, is searching for clues on the disappearance of Indianapolis billionaire Russel Pickett to claim the $100,000 reward. In actuality, this story is a character dive into an OCD sixteen-year-old and the intricacies of her relationships.

R E V I E W

★★★★☆

I was pretty conflicted about what to rate this book. To be fair, I’m not the target audience and I’m not a huge fan of books set in high school. However, I read many reviews that rated this book poorly due to the fantastical and unrealistic plot elements and in my opinion, Green set the story up like this on purpose. Aza’s mental disability causes her to experience life in third person. She seems to stumble through life and these spectacular events she experiences contrast against her preoccupied and uninterested behavior. That’s why this book isn’t really about the missing person investigation. It’s about living with OCD while trying to maintain relationships and handle the stress of daily life.

This is why I enjoyed Turtles. Aza felt so real and her anxieties hit way too close to home sometimes. The book normalizes therapy and emphasizes the importance of friendships over romantic relationships. It’s a character-driven story that I would definitely encourage young people to pick up. Just stay away from An Abundance of Katherines

The one major thing that irked me, though, was Green’s disdain for Indianapolis. Yeah, Indiana isn’t great, but Indy is this little liberal oasis in a sea of red. I can understand a teenager feeling disdain for anywhere they grow up, I just like my city and John Green got it all wrong, dang it! (Also it’s the Indy Star, not The Indianapolis Star; plus other details that probably make sense for readers from other places but annoy me).

All in all, I enjoyed this book far more than I expected to. Good job, Green. I may even pick up your next one whenever that happens.

“The Humans” Review

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“I know that some of you reading this are convinced humans are a myth, but I am here to state that they do actually exist. For those that don’t know, a human is a real bipedal life form of midrange intelligence, living a largely deluded existence on a small, waterlogged planet in a very lonely corner of the universe.”

 

S U M M A R Y

The Humans by Matt Haig is an interesting blend of science fiction and contemporary, about an alien that takes over a human’s identity to stop a mathematical principle called the Riemann Hypothesis from being solved. This hypothesis is essentially the solution to the pattern at which prime numbers occur, and according to the aliens, it would lead to catastrophe in human hands. Our main protagonist takes over the life of Professor Andrew Martin, an extraordinarily intelligent mathematician with a very poor relationship with his wife and son.

R E V I E W

★★★★★

This book is quirky, tongue-in-cheek, deep, and entrancing. It’s an interesting blend of sci-fi and contemporary. It deals with aliens and strange powers, but reads like a contemporary and has many themes commonly found in contemporary novels.

I have to say while reading the first few chapters, I almost put this down and didn’t pick it back up again. Reading about an alien with no previous knowledge of humanity trying to live as a human, I could barely deal with the secondhand embarrassment. Just keep that in mind if you decide to read this (which you should). It only takes a few chapters and it gets there. I ended up using so many tabs, I had to restrain myself from marking every single page.

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The writing is beautiful and incorporates math concepts and imagery to connect and compare the alien race to humanity. Haig expertly transitions from more calculated, scientific language to a more poetic and “human” language as the story progresses and as our main character begins to understand humanity.

Towards the beginning, he listens to Holst’s The Planets (an album I was tickled to realize I owned) and his interaction with music and art are important turning points for his character.

“Listening to music, I realized, was simply the pleasure of counting without realizing you were counting. As the electrical impulses were transported from the neurons in my ear through my body, I felt–I don’t know–calm.”

One of the joys I experienced while reading was listening to the music our main character mentioned.

“There was a Talking Heads song called ‘This Must Be the Place,’ which I played over and over again, even though doing so made me feel melancholy and crave to hear her voice again, or to hear Gulliver’s footsteps on the stairs.”

In conclusion, read this book. It’s a story about love and loss, repairing relationships, and familial bonds. It will make you cry and laugh and think about stuff. If you’re just done with humanity and its bullshit, this book may or may not change your mind.