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A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

34/60 | Started 07.25.23 • Finished 08.01.23 | 4.5 stars

I've been meaning to read this book for a very long time, but with it always on wait list at the library, I keep putting it off. But when I found myself in a bit of a reading rut this summer, I decided to go ahead and put myself on the list and just read it next when it finally came in. In the meantime, I happened to go see A Man Called Otto with my book club, so I did have an idea of what to expect when I jumped in. The movie was great and the book did not disappoint. In fact, it was even better.

People also called him antisocial. Ove assumed this meant he wasn’t overly keen on people. And in this instance he could totally agree with them. More often than not people were out of their minds.

Ove is the complete picture of a crotchety old man. He's gruff, comes off as mean, doesn't mind his own business, and, among other things, wants everyone to follow all the rules of life all the time. We also learn pretty early on that he has designs on killing himself. He's suffered a significant amount of loss over his lifetime, most recently with the death of his wife, Sonja, and even though he seems to have purpose - keeping the rules being utmost - he doesn't find much meaning in it and longs to be back with her, even if it means being in the ground.

You miss the strangest things when you lose someone. Little things. Smiles. The way she turned over in her sleep. Even repainting a room for her.

And then a new family comes swooping into his complex and changes everything. He is extremely reluctant to it, of course. They don't follow the rules, they don't give him space, and two of them are children. Through a series of laugh-out-loud events, his suicide attempts keep getting interrupted. Eventually, with the help of this new family and a stray cat, Ove is drawn into the lives of the community around him. He finds meaning beyond his day-to-day duties. A long-shuttered relationship is rekindled and he helps a now dear neighbor solve a crisis.

Maybe their sorrow over children that never came should have brought the two men closer. But sorrow is unreliable in that way. When people don’t share it there’s a good chance that it will drive them apart instead.

As always, Backman's character development is just flat-out well done. I can picture all of these people - and not because the movie I saw gave them skin - but because his descriptions are so vivid and their experiences so relatable. Backman weaves Ove's past, love story, and life with Sonja in between the novel's current events. In doing so, he helps the reader understand why Ove is the way he is, and why he evolves as the story progresses.

Sometimes it’s hard to explain why some men suddenly do the things they do. And Ove had probably known all along what he had to do, whom he had to help before he could die. But we are always optimists when it comes to time; we think there will be time to do things with other people. And time to say things to them. Time to appeal.

I docked half a star for LGBTQ inclusion, which the book could have done without. There are a number of other ways that thread could've played out. Other than that, this book was stellar and I would recommend it to just about anyone.

Tree. Table. Book., by Lois Lowry

33/60 | Started 07.20.23 • Finished 07.25.23 | 4 stars

I really loved the whole cadence of this book, which concerns two Sophies - one age 11 and one age 88. The younger Sophie is drawn to the elder, Sophie Gershowitz, because they seem to get each other - I pictured kindred spirits a la Anne of Green Gables. However, Sophie G. seems to be struggling and the younger Sophie is out to prove everyone wrong. In the process she discovers Sophie G.'s story - one that's filled with strength, loss, and determination.

Sophie Gershowitz has taught me many things. Teaches, I mean. Present tense. I am still learning from her. And I think that learning from each other is one of the most important parts of friendship.

My only caveat with this book is that it seemed too short. I wanted to know more about their relationship, and more about Sophie G. and her history. I get though that this was a middle grade novel and not meant for the average adult attention span or interest level. I'd definitely recommend this one. It would specifically relate to young readers who are dealing with difficult medical situations involving an older person with whom they are close.

The Mother-in-Law, by Sally Hepworth

32/60 | Started 07.09.23 • Finished 07.20.23 | 2.5 stars

I don't have a whole lot to say about this. It's another book club read and one we selected because of summer. I wouldn't call it a beach read (nothing steamy going on here) but I also wouldn't call it a thriller (wasn't on the edge of my seat). I liked the story enough. Wouldn't call the writing anything stellar. I thought the author tried really hard to add some poignancy at the end, which really fell flat. It just didn't belong in this style of book.

It’s funny, in theory, a mother and a father do the same thing. They nurture you, protect you, try to form you into a reasonable human being. If they do it right, they will keep your feet on the ground. If they do it wrong, they’ll stop you from flying. The difference is subtle, yet vast.
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