A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman
Ove is 59. Ove is an "archetypal, grumpy old sod". Does not like cats. Does not find why there has to be any extravagance in life. He has his own way (which he thinks is the right way!) of doing things - "Why you need to make saffron rice, when potato and meat and sauce can do just fine", Ove wonders. Why do you have to break rules when there are sign boards all around stating you should not be doing something like this. Basically, Ove is someone whom you would love to hate. Someone who is not fit to stay in the modern society.
But as the book progresses, you get to know this grumpy old sod. Orphaned at a very young age, Ove lived a very lonely life, his only passion being automobiles and houses. His life was pretty mundane and colourless till he met the love of his life Sonja - the only person who understood Ove. But life had a different way of mocking him and once again, with the turn of events Ove was left alone. Then moves in a foreign family of 5 right next door. From a not so pleasant first meeting, things move to something beyond people could comprehend about Ove. His liking for the family, specially the pregnant Iraninan woman and her two daughters, brings out the compassionate side of Ove and he goes to extreme levels to help people out in his neighborhood. He even starts liking cats and lets one stay with him! Parvaneh, the pregnant Iraninan woman, is the complete opposite of Ove, talkative, full of life, expressive, but she somehow sees in him things that others fail to see. It is her way of dealing with Ove that brings about the change in Ove. My favourite is the chapter where she learns driving from Ove.
The story revolves around Ove, who is the main character, and things that happen in his neighborhood. It unfolds, slowly, one chapter at a time and gives you the details of Ove's past. His parents, his marriage, his house, his car. We experience the life events of Ove and feel his joy, pain, frustrations and anger. His lone fight against the authorities. The narrative is so free flowing and beautiful, that even though it takes us through a lot of harsh realities of life, there is still a lot of optimism and humour in everything. The descriptions are so vivid that you can clearly visualize each and every scene, as if they are happening right in front of you.
Overall, "A Man Called Ove" is about empathy and optimism. Inspite of all the harsh things life throws at you, you cannot help but realise that happiness lies more in giving than anything else. A wonderful reading experience.