Book club means laughing. Celebrating two years of our very own book club multiplies laughing exponentially! Especially when we vote on our favorite book selections from the year and add silliness like the #mannequinchallenge! They’re lucky this fad will pass by December or I would video every month!!
Because our book, A Man Called Ove, is Swedish, I made a special trip to Ikea for Swedish meatballs. I thought they were pretty good, though they didn’t turn out like I thought they would. There was a LOT of sauce with a LOT of sour cream. That happens a lot when I cook, it’s just not quite what I had in my head. I think I’ve gotten past where I was a few years ago, though. That was when every time I turned on the oven, I burned myself, burned the food and set off the smoke alarm. It was telling when the friend who got there early to help me out, looked at the meatballs I had pulled out of the oven to cool and said, “you know they’re cold, right?” Thank goodness for microwaves.
I love the IDEA of cooking, it’s the execution that gets me a little sweaty. I mean… it gets me glisteny. Granmama says Southern ladies don’t sweat they glisten! (not sure if Southern ladies do hot yoga or run too much, but anyway.) I so admire those who can cook a and I want to be one of those bloggers who makes these wonderful, beautiful, easy, cheap, delicious, fast meals for their whole family from vegetables I grew myself and locally raised animals. But I’m not quite that girl (yet). So I try to make one little special something that’s not too hard for book club and invite my amazing gourmet chef friends who bring these delicious treats they’ve made from the abundance of healthy things they’ve grown in their back yards! Or purchased from the most amazing Farmer’s Market with the best pies! Or they go to the food paradise known as Weigman’s. I’m intimidated by Weigman’s. It makes me glisten.
(Did you know Ikea has an emoticon app with Swedish meatballs? Amazing what you can learn when looking for a picture for your blog!)
So like our book, the Swedish meatballs were Swedish and they weren’t too bad. We also had Swedish cheese, and Swedish fish. I’m also clever enough to have invited my Swedish friend and she made a real contribution with Jansson’s Frestelse (translated as Jansson’s temptation), a creamy potato and onion dish with a tiny hint of anchovies. It was yummy! I’m not sure of her recipe but this recipe from cutie Anna at Door Sixteen (she designs book covers) is similar.
There was also a wonderful salad, pumpkin dip, apple cranberry pie from Wilson’s Farm Market, a delicious apple, walnut feta salad, homemade pepper jelly with cream cheese, a tiny little chocolate cake… We should have taken a “before” picture, all that was left was crumbs! I could go on and on about the food….
So this month’s book was loved by most though there were a few who thought it was just ok. Sure it’s a story that’s been told before. A grumpy old man, depressed and feeling like his life has no meaning is rescued by a family of sorts. I loved the characters and their connections to each other. I enjoyed learning about Ove’s past as it unfolded in relation to present day events. It emphasized that you never know what other people are going through or have been through. A little kindness can be bigger than you know.
Ove likes good tools and well-built things. Everything should have a purpose and be useful. He has a hard time when he no longer knows his own purpose. Sometimes as people age or lose someone close to them or something prevents us from doing something the way we used to – an accident or injury, the whole world is different. It’s frustrating to know one’s place in the world. Things don’t make sense the way it used to.
Ove sees the world in black and white. There are rules that should be followed. He has daily rituals he dogmatically follows. I wondered if there was a touch of Asberger’s or obsessive compulsive disorder or if his behavior was a result of the hardship he faced growing up. I think it’s some of both. If we don’t have a congenital mental illness, we all have times in life where we deal with emotional disorder or mental fatigue. We all have touches of neurosis.
We talked about fathers, and grandfathers and grumpy old men we knew. Both of my Grandaddys were quiet, sometimes ornery fellas with a special place in their hearts for a sweet oldest grandaughter. I also saw some of Ove in myself. I’m mostly a rule-follower. I mostly think there is a correct way things should be done. I get really frustrated when people don’t do what they’re supposed to. I think most of us are loyol to our world view, whether it’s thinking the idiot in front of us should speed up and drive faster or that crazy lunatic should slow down in the neighborhood because someone could get hurt.
This book gave us other perspectives, too, through the supporting characters. It didn’t seem anything in the world could upset the lanky one – Patrick. It’s good to have a few of those people in your life, though sometimes it’s frustrating when nothing rattles them! I loved how the whole group of neighbors were connected and worked together to help each other.
Parveneh seemed like such real person, she laughed, she got annoyed, she pushed Ove’s buttons, she was kind, she argued with her husband, she barged right into life whether there was a mailbox or a closed door in the way or not.
Someone talked about being annoyed with her at the beginning. I wanted to talk more about that but the conversation went down another path and didn’t come back. I wish we had come back to that topic but I love the way book discussions jump from one topic to another. We’ll never cover everything because books are like life. The stories grab each of us by our own experiences and none of these are the same. That’s why sharing it together makes it so much better.
I have some very dear friends who are like Parveneh; they are often loud and rude and demanding but they make you food without you asking and they love you with all their hearts and I love them back, fiercely.
There was a quote in the book I loved, “You only need one ray of light to chase all the shadows away.” I think this was referring to Ove’s wife Sonja. But I saw Parveneh as that ray of light. Her whole family were sunbeams but she, as most mothers are, was the catalyst, the connector. She opened the window to let the light in. I now have this quote on my desk with my own addition – be that ray of light.
It seems like I’ve read a lot of books about older people this year: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (also Scandanavian), The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, My Grandmother Wanted to Tell You She’s Sorry (also by Backman), At Home in Mitford, Etta and Otto and Russell and James, Perhaps they’re not always grumpy but definitely have a sense of being out of touch in some aspects and so incredibly in tune in other ways. In fact, I didn’t write this blog post by HPB Blog but I could have: If You Liked A Man Called Ove, You Might Also Like… I’ve read 5 of the 11 and liked them all.
I adored the relationship Ove developed with the mangy cat, a kindred curmudgeonly spirit. Fredrick Backman had a fun sense of humor and the translator nailed it. Backman is a blogger and has said this novel grew out of a blog he wrote. The character was based partly on him, partly his father. There is a movie with English subtitles currently playing in a few theaters around the country. It’s in Annapolis this weekend if you’re local! You can buy it on Amazon.
Happy Reading! Here’s me enjoying some chocolate cake and wine after everyone left…
P.S. Don’t you just love the photos at the top! They are from A Latte for Thought, a blog about “books, food, coffee, coffee,and coffee.” I love her review of Ove!