“Love is a strange thing. It takes you by surprise.”
I just finished reading the book A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. I recently stumbled upon its inclusion on a book list of 31 of the Most Heartwarming Books You Will Ever Read. I was prepared to dismiss the list quickly after seeing some of the titles, and I completely overlooked A Man Called Ove as I scanned the synopses in search for titles that would be a good fit for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Challenge. I didn’t plan on reading about Ove, but when I was on a layover waiting to get home, I picked it up at the airport. I began reading immediately and while the book held my attention, I wasn’t so sure I’d like the story line very much.
The main character, Ove, is angry at the world. He purposely walks through his neighborhood looking for things that will irritate him. No one can please him. No one can do anything right. According to Ove, people drive the wrong cars, park in the wrong places, smile the wrong way. According to Ove, people are out to cheat their peers, get in his way and pretty much just make life miserable. To sum it up, Ove is not living. In fact, he is (literally) preoccupied with dying. In a way, the story runs as expected: We learn about Ove’s past, his childhood, why he is the way he is. There are people who enter his life who slowly start to embrace him into their community, and even though it seems he has no desire to be a part of the neighborhood, the reader sees him begin to soften. Despite Ove’s clear reputation as a “curmudgeon,” the reader grows fond of him, and although the story line wasn’t particularly unique, I found the characters to be very likable. From the “not a complete idiot” Parvaneh to the overweight neighbor, Jimmy, the characters really do make this story.
This week I also braved the snow to watch the movie Passengers.
While this isn’t a movie from a genre that I would typically be interested in watching, the story line was enough to grab my attention. The concept of people travelling to another planet and having to sleep for 120 years in order to get there? Come on…who wouldn’t want to know more about that? Even the idea of waking up before anyone else does seemed appealing. I initially compared Chris Pratt’s character, Jim, to an introvert waking up on early mornings with no one to bother you. Sounds great to me! But once the idea that you’ll be alone for 90 years with no human interaction sets in, being the only one awake doesn’t sound so exciting anymore. After scanning through the other passengers, Jim makes the decision to wake up Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Aurora. (As one of my friends put it “the Sleeping Beauty”…as I put it “The Mockingjay”) As expected, they share their frustrations and eventually begin to fall in love…until Aurora gets pissed that Jim woke her up on purpose and “took her life away.” Of course there is a resolution and while I wasn’t a fan of how the movie ended or some of the illogical decisions the characters made (Why not save the captain? Why not wake up more people who could have prevented some of the catastrophes – like a chef or a real doctor?), there was one phrase that stayed with me throughout the movie:
There were a number of accidents going on in this movie, the most prominent one, of course, being the malfunction of the hibernation pod. But there were others too: revelations of secrets and breakdowns of machinery among them. It got me thinking about Ove. Aurora didn’t mean to find in love. Neither did Ove. They both stumbled upon it unexpectedly. I guess that’s the thing about love. It comes to you when you least expect it but need it the most. You’re not meant to be alone. It doesn’t always arrive by happy circumstances or on a fluffy cloud. Sometimes it comes to you in grief or in loneliness. But how it comes doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s there. You make a choice to accept it. And you make the decision to return it.
But if there is something that I’ve learned about love in all these years, it’s that love and everything that comes with it is no accident. It may surprise you, but it’s been a part of the plan all along.