Book Club: A Man Called Ove

Hindsight is how we live our lives, memories, and a self reflection discussion about our relationship with routine dominated the book club discussion of Fredrik Backman’s debut novel, A Man Called Ove. A few ladies and I met at my friend’s beautiful home noshing on divine healthy snacks of cauliflower crust pizzas with spinach, celery and dip, and almonds. We all know that the snacks are just as important as the book selection!

The main character Ove is a man who needs to be useful at all times. We agreed the book was charming when everything gets neatly tied up by the end of the book. It is written well and doesn’t seem trite or inauthentic. Many years ago I had a teaching job that I look back and think was the best years of my career. Since I have been purging and cleaning so much lately I came upon journals from this time period. I was amazed to read my own words lamenting about the same issues from my current job. Yes, there were golden glowing moments but the obstacles I dealt with were very familiar. So then that caused my to ponder: is it my perception of that time and the distance from the present that makes it seem more positive now. I have been reading more about meditation and impermanence and have been trying hard to not overthink. One friend at book club said that “we worry about the past and about the future” and do not live in the present. I am trying to be mindful of the present and savoring the moments.

The conversation moved to routines because Ove has so many that he progresses through everyday. Routine is how he lives he life moving through his day. He wants to be useful. I have certain routines especially when it comes to the morning. I drink my coffee every morning without fail and exercise more consistently when I have a routine going. Usually it is running but lately since the weather has been windy and cold I have been using the elliptical. I feel more together and ready for my day when I start with routine. All the ladies said they didn’t have a lot of routines but I countered with the idea that they really did – just self imposed ones. Their freedom was expressed that they had careers that did not have a routine for the day to day – that everyday is different. I feel the same about my career. I have an open schedule and like that framework. We are all self disciplined enough to get things we need to get done , DONE. Through some research I know that routines help free our minds to be more creative. Our brains go on auto pilot and we are free to think about more innovative things.

The chapter titles are like little one sentence stories which makes me smile. But one of my favorite quotes spans from page 305-306:

Loving someone is like moving into a house. At first, you fall in love with all the new things,          amazed every morning that all this belongs to you as if fearing that someone would suddenly come rushing in through the door to explain that a terrible mistake had been made, you weren’t actually supposed to live in a wonderful place like this. Then over the years the walls become weathered, the wood splinters here and there, and you start to love that houses not so much because of all its perfection, but rather for its imperfections. You get to know all the nooks and crannies…These are the little secrets that make it your home.

I like this quote as it makes me think of life in general. We are attracted to certain things and people in our lives and as they get worn in and lived we appreciate them more. Memories are like this as well. One of the ladies remembered fondly her Dad helping everyone in the neighborhood much like Ove helped in his even though sometimes it was with grumbling.

Everyone wants to be useful and fulfill our purpose in life. This book reminded us of the impact one life can have on all those around us and the secrets that we keep to ourselves that are only revealed after we are gone.

The group has yet to pick a new book…will keep you posted!

Happy Reading!