Book Reviews With Oumissa #14: A Man Called Ove

 

Title: A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: 2014Genre: Fiction
Rating 4/5

What the world sees is a gruff, socially handicapped old man. The vibes he gives off are unwelcoming and sometimes border on being harsh. Almost no one considers that he has lived a life worthy of being told as a story. They assume he has always been like this, of course with no idea of how incidents in his life have affected him.

Ove is upset by everything. The list of infractions that attract his indignation includes the carefree attitude of young people, how anyone would drive a car asides his infallible Saab, the influx of immigrants into Sweden changing the country as he knows it, the nonchalant behaviour of his neighbours towards maintaining a decent community; according to his standards of course. He is even annoyed by cats and men who cannot fix things around the house. He is a man who finds great fulfilment in working with his hands, values diligence, tidy council layouts and community responsibility.

The book is narrated mostly in Ove’s mind’s voice. He is taciturn and most of his expression is the form of monologues in his head where he grumbles and complains about different things. He has devised a secret plan to but the people and incidents around him find a way to get his attention and delay it further from accomplishment.

This is a truly beautiful rendition of how the tensions between new immigrants and already-present nationals can be transformed into relationships built on trust, friendship and even love. In this regard, the credit goes to Parvaneh, his new pregnant Iranian neighbour. She takes a liking to him and is not rebuffed by his outward appearance of steely indifference or hostility. An uncanny friendship builds between him and her young family as he finds himself; against his inclinations, helping them and accepting their help. We witness an unlocking of his memories from a childhood tragedy, youthful days, falling in love with his wife Sonja and finding radiance the type that should last forever.

Image of elderly couple walking down a country road.Book quote: One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead.

They, however, suffer a terrible tragedy that changes the course of their lives. This singular incident seems like the last one too many. Choosing to carry on with what he had left involved great sacrifice, loyalty and dedication leaving a normally reticent person even less available for social interaction. He is still to face perhaps the greatest tragedy of his life, the extinguishing of the one light he has left, and the one person whose love and companionship made life worth living. He is suddenly floundering, unable to carry on, the buffer that helped him navigate necessary human relationships gone. Ove fully descends into the permanent disagreeable mood everyone avoids.

“And it wasn’t as if Ove also died when Sonja left him. He just stopped living. Grief is a strange thing.”

There is a brilliance in the way Backman reveals her death. It was easy to think she was in a state where she couldn’t talk as Ove carried on conversations with her every single day. The story doubles back to his plan to end things in a bid to join her in her realm. A plan which then gets disturbed each time by Parvaneh and her cheery playful daughters, youths in his community, his former best friend with who he has had a feud for decades and even a cat. In them, he finds help to render, receives love, and ultimately they unravel the kind, helpful, loyal man who would risk his own life to protect those he cares about.

So meticulous is he that he postpones his suicide for the duty to help these people even as he finds them annoying. They warm their way into his heart having found the real Ove wasn’t quite as scary as his reputation and inadvertently destroy his suicide plans. They form a giant family, navigating major life experiences together like birthdays, childbirth, hospital visits, crime, driving lessons, coming out to homophobic fathers, caring for a pet with human-like mannerisms.

One big theme of this book is that humans cannot be held at face value. We truly do not know what anyone is like until we get to know them. When they are hostile as Baba Ove was, it takes more effort and can be frustrating but it is clear that in this case, it was worth it especially as his attitude was more of a social recluse who was not violent to anyone. It makes you think of how many people in your life you have misjudged because you do not know more beyond their general demeanour. How many are carrying around unhealed trauma? It makes you want to be kind just as it urges the traumatized person not to view everyone else as an enemy.

The vivid representation of grief, sadness, a difficult childhood and how repeated trauma defines a person’s character and world views was heavy. In addition, we see how the system can consistently be unfair on honest upright citizens as Ove is frustrated at many points in his life by local council rules that take things he loves away from him. All his attempts at fighting back are mostly futile. This causes pent-up resentment and feelings of letting himself, loved ones and values down.

This was a unique reading experience in first, the characteristic tone translated works tend to have, each chapter being eponymous with the book title and of course Ove thinking of himself in the third person meaning he was even aloof from his own essence. An overriding issue that the author highlights is modernity moving too fast for the elderly especially those who have no one left to relive the moments their youth with. They end up feeling dissociated and lonely from the new culture.

The protagonist’s warm side came alive with his mother and then Sonja who despite being dead was such a huge presence all through the book. All of this changed with his new family, a motley of characters who create the atmosphere of love and acceptance he needed and achieved the mean feat of keeping a grief-stricken old man from taking his own life.

It is compelling and would evoke tears so be warned.
Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?


Dr Mariam Toye

Reading Your Way to Wholesome Living

Reading will change your life

First Thursdays in March are World Book Days, set aside to promote literacy. Reading in many communities is majorly done for school but there’s more to it than that. It could be used for fun, growth, company, as a complement to healing, bonding, and fostering strong communities.


An avid reading lifestyle keeps the brain active and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It is an activity that increases your cognitive ability thus delaying the onset of memory loss as you age. The effects are more pronounced when it is a lifelong habit.

There are many more benefits a good book can add to your overall health. Have trouble sleeping? A book may be what you need. Reading a couple of chapters of a physical book regularly builds a pattern that improves the quality of your sleep. Ebooks are not included as they expose you to screen time just before bed which interferes with sleep.

In building your vocabulary, it helps you to gain better conversational skills. The wealth of experience you gain from being an avid reader flows into your social skills as you have more topics to discuss with others. This helps some people to build confidence and overcome anxiety in social gatherings.

Reading a couple of chapters of a physical book regularly builds a pattern that improves the quality of your sleep.

In this regard, book clubs are an excellent platform to meet new people from billionaires to authors to artisans. Creeds, tribes, races , nationalities joined by one spark- the love of books. It is one of the best chances humanity has at unity and peace.

In reducing the effects of stress, a good book helps you to bear the rigours of ill-health. This benefit can be unlocked just after about 10 minutes of reading. When I feel stressed about something, I find reading to be helpful in relieving the tension.

Other benefits include improved overall mental ability, increased attention span and an increase in empathy found among readers. Exposure to different scenarios in fiction, following characters through their journeys makes us understand that there are many perspectives to life based on different experiences. This makes us more welcoming and less judgmental. Looking to build a better world? Invest in libraries and book communities.

Children shown the wonders of the world with books are less likely to have time for disruptive activities. It is an activity that fosters cooperation rather than vicious competition among them. Their bonding improves, their language skills grow faster , they are able to communicate clearly and just being busy with this may make them less inclined to petty crime later on. Buy more books for them.

Now that you know reading makes you a healthier, smarter and better person, what book are you picking up next?

Dr Mariam Toye

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Book Reviews With Oumissa 12: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Generational stories take more time and dedication. It is harder to tie together and make the dates, historical events and flow add up. When an author achieves this, the time spent is worth it because you don’t have to be doing the mental gymnastics.

Two sisters start life out on vastly different paths. One gets married to a slavemaster, the other is captured.And in this way, two genealogical lines are formed. This heartrending account follows the lives of their descendants across different eras and locations, tracking their journey. Each lifetime had a tumultuous event that drastically redirected their path in life in a major way.

No one forgets that they were once captive, even if they are now free. But still, Yaw, you have to let yourself be free.

They all remain connected not just by blood but by an indecipherable spiritual bond. So powerful is it that centuries after the forerunners , their descendants meet in a most unexpected of places.

The work of historical fiction begins in the Gold Coast when the intraAfrican and then transatlantic slave trades were in full swing. As it unfolds, positions change, fortunes dwindle, and expectations get shattered into splinters.

The branch that remains at home experience abolition, colonialism, a budding democracy and then migration to America. The other lives through the horrors of the dreaded voyage across the Atlantic, slavery and the variety of indignities people of colour faced.

Yaa adeptly describes the ugly moments and how slaves fought to hold on to the few moments of normalcy and happiness in all that bleakness. Abolition, the harsh conditions of the coal mines, racism, economic disenfranchisement give way to the drug era and finally an educated generation that is do close to getting equal rights as whites.

Through it all, we see love in its purest form survive the most arduous circumstances. Aku is that member of the family that’s the link between the past and the future. She binds everyone together and feels the experiences of the lost relatives she has never met. She has gripping visions of the dark past, holds tight to her customs and beliefs, lives to see the Gold Coast become Ghana and is so attached to Marjorie, her granddaughter helping her to recognize her past.

In America, the worst thing you could be was a black man. Worse than dead, you were a dead man walking.

There is a pervading sense of the supernatural throughout the book and many passages will raise the hair at the back of your neck. It is also beautiful to see how each character tries to pass down the family history to the next generation.

It was a gripping and fast-paced read.so graphic were the descriptions that you could feel how tight the slave decks were in the ship, could feel the claustrophobia in H’s coal mine, feel the self hatred Richard had towards his wife and child and feel that electric spark when Marjorie falls in love with her many times removed cousin. It is a splendid work in narration, vivid in its capturing. While the continuity isn’t great as one person’s story often ends abruptly leaving you wondering what happened to them, it is in all, a brilliant work that paints so well what black people still experience today.

The Two Sides of Love Author, Folabomi Amoo Shares Thoughts About His Debut Anthology

Don’t you just love the cover?

A collection of rich and profoundly resonating poems by Folabomi Amoo, The Sides of Love will touch you in the central fibres of your being, carry you through the dark moments, leave you breathless but most of all, give you hope in the amazing power of this unrelenting force called love. We had a chat with him about his new release.

First off, congratulations on the launch of your collection of poems. How long have you been writing this anthology?

Thank you very much. I worked on it for about a year. I first started with just writing poems as they come. Then as they started to accumulate, the story started to come together.

What a buildup that must have been. Could you describe the main recurring theme of the poems?

It is love. The two sides of it. The struggles and triumphs of two different couples. However, the most important thing is that both parts of the book are told through the eyes of the lovers themselves.

Name three poets whose works have most influenced you.

I am a very avid reader. I read people’s materials and I try to take bits here and there from everyone whose material I read. There isn’t really a person or particular set of people that I can point out to say I was most influenced by.

The Two Sides of Love as seen on OkadaBooks

Interesting. What inspired you to embark on this journey?

The first poem I wrote was in July 2018. I was in a bus on my way to work, and my mind was wandering. The words and the lines started to form in my head, but that day I chose to write them down. I showed a couple of people. They liked it and so the journey began.

The power of good feedback! Could you tell our readers the audience you wrote this for?

There is not really a target audience, but I can say that young adults would appreciate it more, as the book addresses issues common with young couples. But, the book is for everyone who is a fan of poetry.

A number of young people are developing their talent in poetry. What advice do you have for them?

No matter how weird, or different your poems may be at first, just keep writing. The more you write, the better you become and that is just the reality.

Folabomi, what’s next?

I have another book on the way once the dust settles. And I would be releasing it hopefully, in the first quarter of next year.

Thank you very much. We wish you succcess!

You are welcome.

…………….

To purchase a copy of this book for yourself, loved ones and strangers, kindly place your orders on Amazon, OkadaBooks, Selar and KoboBooks

You can read more of his work on Medium

_________________

OumissaInspire

Lagos

241219

Mint Stethoscope – A Guide for New Doctors

Official ebook release poster

It is so exciting to see this book released finally.

I wish I had this guide before starting my house job journey but I remain grateful for all the guidance I gathered from different sources.

We at Health Hub Africa present our contribution to making the path easier for those coming behind us. We must end the cycle of undue suffering. The rigours of medical practice are enough to deal with. Young doctors do not have to face extraneous ones that do not help their overall growth, care delivery and wellbeing.

The radiant cover page

It has been shown that many who get disillusioned with medical practice feel that way due to the lack of support or proper guidance during their crucial first year. By sharing this free ebook, you are investing in the career of young doctors and by extension strengthening the Nigerian healthcare system.

List of contributors

Well done to everyone who made this a reality. It was an honour to be the contributing editor of this work.

Help share word by using this picture, the Twitter hashtag #HouseOfficersGuide and the download link bit.ly/mintstethoscope.

__________

Dr Mariam Toye

Editor

Social Media Ethics For Health Professionals – How working to solve a problem birthed a book

Social Media Guide For Health Workers

“In today’s world of putting out thoughts and opinions online in a flash, how does a health professional maintain a profile within the limits of ethics?

In recent times, there have been concerns about how some health workers post content on social media. This made it imperative for some of us at Health Hub Africa to come together and work out a way of salvaging the situation. The general theme on this forum is to avoid complaining about problems that pop up everyday or surround us. Rather, we work on providing a solution or even put forward proactive ones to other problems we think can be nipped in the bud by observing trends before they become a menace. These deliberations developed gradually until we had a book on our hands!

Dr Ayomide Owoyemi, Dr. Ronald Kelechi Ikpe, Foluke Olaniyi-George, Olusegun Abraham, Weyinmi Erikowa-Orighoye, Iyewande Dipeolu M.D. and I are happy to present this ebook to you.

It is an honour to finally be able to do so

You can now download (for free) the Social Media Guide for Health Workers ebook using these links

http://Bit.ly/smhguidefull
http://Bit.ly/smhguideabridged

It is our hope that it helps health professionals leverage on social media while staying within the limits of ethics. This will protect not only their patients but themselves and the general public.”

Dr Mariam Toye

A page from the book on good social media conducts

REVIEWS

“Knowing what not to do is equally as important as knowing what to do.” ~Steve Harvey

For medicine, it might be more important, if the first thing you must know is to do no harm. This guide contains well written instructions for putting your exquisitely manicured foot forward. It not only tells you what not do with very relatable examples, it explains in just 18 pages how to optimize your social media to the benefit of your career.”

Dr Ifeoma Ndigwe

How to avoid unethical conduct on social media

This instructional manual details how transformation in technology especially in our social engagements has fed directly into the practice of modern health care; shedding light on its mismanagement and how to make the best of this modern innovation.

Considering the misconduct of health services in social media spheres, this book aptly brings to one’s remembrance the oft-ignored moral codes that form the pillars of medicine as a discipline. The information therein is all-encompassing, easy to understand and addressed in relatable social media colloquialisms.

It also properly recognizes and delineates the nuances in the different social media platforms. By illustrating actual examples of some gaffes, it brings to life the reality of this trend. I must commend the effort put into bringing this to fruition. It is an important recommendation for all health care workers: the social media savvy and naive alike.


Dr Balogun D.I

Illustrations of improper conduct

Social Media Usage for Health Workers is an easy-to-read guide. I like the way Mariam Toye and her team make it so relatable, giving examples which are very relatable and ethical dos and donts which are easy to understand and follow.

Medicine is a delicate profession where you would want to be mindful of what you say to protect the Identity of your patient but at the same time use this New Age Avenue/Market, which is “The Social Media” to educate the public. So, if you don’t want to say anything online that you wouldn’t want plastered to your face on a billboard like Erin Bury says; as a health professional, please use this guide!”

Dr Rebecca Solomon

What Exactly is Lupus? – 10 facts to mark World Lupus Day

Goodreads review

“Am I dead yet,”…Diagnosed during her high school years, the author decided to keep a personal diary of her confusion,

fear, and challenges of being diagnosed with Lupus. Lupus, also known as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a

disease that can affect many different body systems, including the joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, heart, and lungs.

Facts about LUPUS

1.Full meaning Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or SLE

2. It is an inflammatory autoimmune disease caused by genetic abnormalities.. This means that the body’s defence attacks

its own cells, tissues and organs.

3. Women are affected in 90% of cases.

4. Symptoms include feeling of unwellness, fatigue, fever, rash, joint pain, loss of appetite and weight loss.

5. Its rash is unique in the way it spreads, flatly across the bridge of the nose and cheeks in a butterfly pattern.

Hence the symbol on campaign posters.

6. SLE causes damage to the kidneys, heart, nervous system and other organs.

7. People affected experience intervals of wellness and this is part of why the ongoing damage to vital organs

becomes life-threatening.

8. Doctors make a diagnosis of lupus with the presence of 11 criteria

9. Treatment involves medication to reduce inflammation, steroids and in severe cases, chemotherapy.

This is carried out by a specialist who is called a rheumatologist.

10. People living with SLE can reduce the severity of symptoms and progression of the disease by avoiding

direct contact with sunlight, using their medication as prescribed and seeing their doctor for close monitoring.

.

If you learnt something new from this post, kindly share.

Dr Mariam Toye

Founder and Editor at OumissaInspire

Book Reviews With Oumissa 10: Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon by Nike Campbell-Fatoki

Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon

Autographed copy

Title: Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon

Author: Nike Campbell-Fatoki

Genre: Fiction

Pages: 178

Publisher: Quramo Publishing

Published: 2016

This collection of short stories is as enjoyable as it is powerful. I attended her book reading and signing event at Patabah Books a couple of years ago. Learning about her inspiration, background and the stories behind her stories before reading them brought on a more profound meaning.

The variety centres on the lives of Nigerians home and abroad, the longing for old memories is existing with the pull of the foreign land. The stories are split between the immigrant experience; from the tumultous to the mundane; and the joy and troubles of living in a country like Nigeria. She fluidly paints many ways in which home and abroad are different and yet so similar The book is laced with humour that relieves the reader’s heart of some of its weight.

Moral dilemmas are presented in a way we can associate with, a sort of mirror for our own situations. Thus, we understand the characters’ struggles without judgement.

Familiar everyday scenarios brought to life in this book include rebelling against an overbearingly strict Pentecostal father, the public transport system and underworld in the sprawling, unforgiving city of Lagos, mental illness and a patriarch exacting posthumous revenge on his uncaring family through his will.

But it does make us stop and tell ourselves, the negative things need not be part of life.

Others are green card fraud, learning disability, nosy neighbours, rosy teenage love soured by pregnancy and family disgrace, domestic violence and how women continue to condone it for the sake of the children seeing it a necessary part of life. They make a life facing off blows and yet remain resilient and in some cases, even triumphant.

But it does make us stop and tell ourselves, “The negative things need not be part of life”. We can identify secondary characters who, in their own ways, change the status quo for better.

One of my favourites is A Brewing Storm. Nestled in the middle, narrated with the innocence of a child’s perspective, it explores domestic violence with brave depth , elicits a sense of shame that we as a society have allowed this evil to go on for far too long. The physical and psychological pain, the constant inching to the precipice of death by the hand of a husband, the scars on the children’s psyche all clutch at your heart strings.

Worst of it for the character is the support system of close women (victims themselves) who accommodate her and the kids after each beating. They tell her there is no other way but to endure it. She must maintain the worth accorded to her in the society, the value that comes with being in a man’s house.

There is a remarkable finesse to which Campbell-Fatoki delivers this and the wider societal norms set against women. We see how women (like mother-in-laws) are complicit in this. This chapter is not written as funny. Even as she plays with friends, the fear of her mother’s death is palpable in the child’s consciousness. In a fitting climax, a battered woman and her kids take different desperate stands to protect themselves from an abusive man of the house.

But we also learn that it is and should not be the norm. This was beautifully written about in Searching For Miss Anderson. A woman living with schizophrenia from her teenage years finds unwavering support, the most she’s ever had, in her husband. He stays by her side, actively involved in her long winding recovery process. Happy marriages resplendent with mutual love and respect, providing a safe space for nurturing children are possible and do exist. That balance is necessary, a true depiction of reality

Happy marriages resplendent with mutual love and respect, providing a safe space for nurturing children are possible and do exist.

The Rake and the Wallflower, set in the seventies, details the discrimination people with learning disabilities face in an engaging story about a Nigerian girl who is married off to a man she knows only through a photo in. Abuse and restrictions follow as soon as she lands in America. Doubly due to the norms of the time that said he could treat his wife anyhow but also because he considered her a retard.

People treat those with learning difficulties with condescension often forgetting that they have thought processes and register all of it. It is a brilliant story. It was heartwarming to see this woman escape the horrific domestic situation with the help of her neighbour, a lovely American old lady and her father back at home who never considered his daughter as any less than others.

In all, in presenting what we recognise, in the laughter and tears it evokes, Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon calls us to answer deep moral questions. I appreciate its dedication to family which is present as a common thread throughout. Beneath the hilarity and resonance of the tales is a call to us to keep enjoying what is good about us but commit to rectifying the many faults we have as individuals and a society at large.

Rating 4/5

What are your thoughts about this book?

Sunday Brunch With The Ladies and Patricia Cornwell

oumissainspire.com
Alhamdulillah for these amazing, talented, loyal , driven and loving women. They are so committed to growth and are a good support system for one another.

Pathology was one of my faves in college. Was it because it was taught by groundbreaking female professors? One of them was a great Muslimah role model who did a lot to help us hijabi students (there were battles we faced that only people like her could help us fight) but she really was and still is a mother to all students.

Or because it is such a rich and intriguing field; the basis of disease, the bedrock of medicine itself. For if we do not understand what is wrong with the body, how can we begin to fix it?

Morbid anatomy had the heaviest textbook in that year. I remember being scared of my Robbins and Cortran falling on me from my overhead bookshelf and crushing me in my sleep haha.

This love had started way before med school. Patricia Cornwell and other forensic pathologists/medical examiners/coroners were favourites. It was so cool to see doctors in them using findings from the autopsies they performed to help detectives nail serial killers and other perpetrators and close difficult cases.


I honestly wonder how my strawberry milkshake looked like vanilla with pink stripes. But I loved it anyways.

I’m still enjoying this book. It just got fast-paced.
What are your thoughts on forensic thrillers?

The Eyes of the Skin- A Glimpse of Pallasmaa

There is a certain haste with which one finishes a book borrowed from someone who themselves have borrowed it. Coupled with a life changing deadline in the air, it was a thrill to read this book in less than three hours. I enjoyed it and wish I could have reread it.

Man looks at the creation of architecture with his eyes, which are 5-6 feet from the ground.”

Architecture is an amazing field. Much of our experience is based on the spaces in which we live, learn, laugh, and love. It explored architectural history especially how they have shaped humans through millenia.

We also learn about the author’s background, life and influences. His exceptional love for books was endearing. The genius of his mind jumps out of the richly illustrated work. There are references throughout the text about the work of Frank Lloyd, Louis Kahn, Leon Battista Alberta and a host of others.

What is missing from our dwellings today are the potential transactions between body, imagination and environment.

Though a necessary resource for students of architecture, it was easy to grasp its basic concepts and create a yearning for more.

Rating 4.5

___________

Mariam Toye