Saturday, May 28, 2016

MAY 2016 BOOKERS' MINUTES & MUSINGS, A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

“You only need one ray of light to chase all the shadows away.”

Add a self-proclaimed curmudgeon named Ove, who favors entombing his “love suit” until it merits unveiling, to bottled spirits, food, 25 friends, an evening Bookers’ meeting, and a member’s birthday, and you have the makings of a ‘rollicking-good-time’ closing out our eleventh year at the home of Beverly Dossett. We once again thank Bonnie Magee for handling the epicurean czarship with her usual proficiency. We appreciate everyone’s willingness to adjust our regular May meeting date to fit our schedules. Our birthday girl, Cherry, appreciates all the cards and well wishes offered in celebration of her special day!

Because of the evening timeframe, our working girl, Jean McSpadden, was able to join us and volunteered to review this month’s selection. Sometimes providence is unescapable as was the case with Jean and this portrait of quirkiness as “by-the-book” Ove drove a Saab as did our reviewer back in the day. Saabs are dependable, turbo-charged, safe, and a classic that enjoys a loyal following. Sound familiar? Thank you for your insights into Mr. Backman’s debut novel.

Often gaining knowledge into the author’s background provides a peek into the storyline or motivations for writing a book. Swedish born Fredrik studied comparative religion but dropped out to drive a truck instead (most likely a diesel engine Scania). The owner of a free newspaper, launched in 2006, asked Fredrik to add writing for the paper to his truck driving duties, launching his career as a blogger and columnist. Upon discovering there were “people out there willing to pay people to just write about other people,” he commented, “surely this must be better than working…not to mention the fact that I can sit down for a living now, which has been great for my major interest in cheese eating.”

The opening scene of this novel instantly gives the reader a character profile of the protagonist. The world with everyone dripping with the latest technology advances has left fifty-nine year old Ove behind and he’s not happy about the state of things. He’s clearly suffering from irritable male syndrome but why. “A time comes when you choose what sort of person you want to be…” Did he opt to be a crusty ill-tempered man or did the loss of his wife and the underlying tale of aging and loneliness entice him to the safest place he knew – the pre-paid gravesite beside the love of his life. His black and white, wrong was wrong, right was right, fair play, and hard work mindset clashed with Sonja, the color in his life, who professed to love only three things, her father, cats, and books before she met Ove. She compared him to the “slightly disheveled pink flowers” he brought to their first dinner date and felt all roads led to something you were predetermined to do. He just wanted to “know what it felt like to be someone (she) looked at,” and for him all roads led to her. On paper, they were polar opposites, but in their hearts, they complimented each other’s strengths and weaknesses. She loved books and taught hundreds of pupils with learning disabilities to read, write, and appreciate Shakespeare’s collective works. He honored her passion by building her bookcases. The “real” Ove peeks out with an influx of neighborly interactions and interferences punctuated by the arrival of Cat Annoyance interrupting his rigid schedule. Suddenly his world exploded with people and animals and with their arrival came a sense of significance…they all needed him in some way. In response, he put aside his outward Clark Kent garb to uncloak his “superman suit,” albeit with an upside-down smile and a sense of humor.

Overall, our group received this book with open arms as, although the premise of a grumpster bent on methodically taking his own life is a bit off-putting, his story held values, loyalty, love, friendship, and purpose to a high standard. The strength of the novel is to take such an arduous storyline and successfully make the reader laugh-out loud and shed a tear in the same sentence. A few Bookers took exception and didn’t enjoy the book, some expressed it was not their favorite, and others had difficulty with a fifty-nine year old being labeled “old.” As always, we recognize and respect that we each have our own “reading cups of tea.” We shared a lively discussion and meaningful quotes from the book, many laughs and personal views….Bookers at our best! I was struck with the stark contrast between two states of mind – grumpiness and happiness – and why, if there were a choice, would one choose one over the other. There is some anecdotal evidence that suggests loss of hormones in both sexes, chemical changes in the brain, or chronic pain reducing our coping abilities all can lead to depression. It’s simplistic to advocate getting out of a rut, not fretting about what we cannot change, avoiding criticism of others, and adopting a child’s perspective – the world is a simple place of wonder – is the answer to grumpiness, but it’s something to consider. We all might benefit from removing some of those pits in our bowl of cherries.

      On the business side:
Thanks to everyone who sent their suggestions to us for possible selections as a Bookers’ book. Having said that, we are still in the process of reading some of them including Nicholas Sparks latest novel, See Me, The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin, Ask Him Why by Catherine Ryan Hyde, The Church of Marvels by Leslie Darby, and are checking out West with the Night by Beryl Markham, and others. I’m wearing out another pair of reading glasses.

I’ve just returned from a short vacation at MN & Mike’s home in Dauphin Island, Alabama. We were sitting on the porch rocking away inhaling the salt air, watching the dolphins romp, and the pelicans dive bomb for lunch, when she said, let’s plan Bookers’ year. I pouted and shed a tear because I wanted to just rock. She gave me three minutes before saying, “OK, how about we do this on September 13th,” and the planning began. As you know, although she will not be “in house” very much the upcoming year, she is still the heart and soul of Bookers – so in an attempt to make my life easier and to add a little fun mix to the upcoming year we’re offering the following recommendations to start our year – see below:

                           COLOR CODING SYSTEM
                           WHITE:         LIGHT READ
                           PINK:             MODERATELY CHALLENGING
                           RED:              CHALLENGING

Summer Break:                     June, July, & August
                                                Summer Read recommended by Bernie Crudden
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
set in the summer of 1922 in the midst
of the Jazz Age, Long Island, New York.
September 13th:                      Beginning of Bookers’ 13th year
                                                The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
                                                Guest Reviewer: Penny Barshop
                                                Home of Donna Walter
October 4th:                             Early date due to Garage Sale
Me Before You, by Jo Jo Moyes 
features two people who couldn’t have 
less in common until love gave them everything to lose.
                                                DEEP PINK
At the movies – Rebecca Robinson’s theater.
November 8th:                         Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave, 
                                                author of Little Bee. The setting, the 
                                                ever-changing landscape of World War II London, 1939.
                                                PINKISH RED
                                                Reviewer: Patsy Dehn
                                                Home of Patsy Dehn
December 7th:                         WEDNESDAY NIGHT @ The Pinnacle Club. 
                                                 We’ll celebrate the holidays in our decorated clubhouse
                                                 with a plated dinner and no Bingo to 
                                                 compete with. Details will follow, 
                                                 but our intent is to begin cocktails 
                                                 around 5:00 P.M., followed by a short 
                                                 business meeting, dinner, book review, and discussion.
                                                Too Bright to Hear, Too Loud to See, a debut novel 
                                                by Juliann Garey follows the missing ten years
                                                of successful bipolar Hollywood studio executive’s life.
                                                Reviewer: Beverly Dossett

January 10th:                           Reviewer: Rebecca Brisendine – book TBD
                                                Home of Bonnie Magee
February 14th:                         Reviewer: Jean Alexander – book & host home TBD
March 14th:                             Reviewer: Patty Evans – book TBD
                                                Home of Jean Alexander
April 11th:                               Reviewer: Barbara Creach- book & host home TBD
May 9th:                                  Tentative date – evening event?        
                                                Reviewer: Pat Faherty – book TBD
                                                Home of Melanie Prebis

Our Books in Bloom author, Jan Jarboe Russell of Train to Crystal City fame just awarded best non-fiction of the year from the Texas Institute of Letters. Well deserved honor!

We’d like to take a moment to reflect on those within our community of friends whose lives or those of a loved one have hung in the balance recently. A French Proverb tells us “there are no miracles for those that have no faith in them” – they are born of a love greater than our own.

Have a wonderful summer and bring us some “diamonds in the rough” to read in the upcoming year.


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