Set in Pittsburgh on the cusp of a new century, newly retired 75-year-old Henry looks back on his life, full of questions with no answers. Henry has spent his life trying to do all the right things as a son, husband, soldier, and churchgoer, but as time marches on, he begins to wonder if this is all there is. With his children distant and only his wife, Emily, and dog, Rufus, to keep him company, Henry, once an everyman, feels as if the world has passed him by. But he might soon realize that what feels like an ending could surprise him.
The Story of Arthur Truluv
When widower Arthur meets teenage misfit Maddy in the cemetery where he visits his late wife, the two strike up an unexpected friendship. Arthur’s elderly neighbor, Lucille, joins them, and the trio comes to play important roles in each other’s lives, relieving them of loneliness that’s become all too familiar. A story of the importance of family, both the one we’re born into and the one we choose, The Story of Arthur Truluv is a poignant story that’s relatable no matter your age.
Live a Little
Beryl Dusinbery, a nonagenarian who’s losing her memory, and Shimi Carmelli, an 80-something who remembers everything, are both coming to grips with the indignities of aging. As Beryl attempts to recall the stories of her past, Shimi is trying to forget his childhood shame, and both are considering all the paths not taken. While most of the story introduces us intimately to each character, we soon find them developing a relationship of their own and wondering if new love is possible in old age. Both irreverent and tender, this is a witty and insightful tale of reaching the inevitable end of one’s life.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Living in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, Harold’s life is much the same every day, until a letter arrives from an old friend he hasn’t heard from in 20 years. Queenie is dying and wants to say goodbye. Instead of mailing a letter in response, Harold decides to say goodbye in person and heads out on a 600-mile journey from Kingsbridge to Berwick-upon-Tweed. Along his pilgrimage, Harold is confronted with long-dormant memories as well as strangers who bring up old regrets and force him to contemplate his life.
A Gentleman in Moscow
Sentenced to house arrest in a Moscow hotel, Count Alexander Rostov spends decades confined, creating a world out of the people in the hotel, all while Russia is in tumult right outside the front doors. Rostov’s usual infatuation with the luxuries of his old life is soon replaced by a deepening emotional awakening as his circumstances force him to turn inward. While the setting and time period make for an interesting story on their own, it’s Rostov that propels the novel forward, allowing you to root for a character that seems unlikeable at face value. Full of enticing characters, unexpected humor, and delightful relationships, this charming book slowly reveals a complicated life that unfolds beautifully.
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Let us introduce you to Major Ernest Pettigrew, a proper Englishman who soon becomes an unlikely hero. After his brother’s sudden death, he finds himself in the beginnings of a friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, a Pakistani shopkeeper, bonding over their shared affection for literature and the grieving of their spouses. But can they overcome the shadow of the village people’s judgement? Brew a cup of tea, grab a handkerchief, and dive in to the lives of two characters who will very soon steal your heart.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Needing a place to send his difficult father-in-law, Ravi Kapoor is relieved to discover his cousin has set up a retirement home in India. The ad promises luxury living at an affordable price, which attracts a slew of British senior citizens eager to take advantage of its amenities. However, upon arrival they soon realize the renovations are on hold, leaving them without even the most basic of necessities like water and electricity. But despite the unfortunate accommodations, this cast of quirky characters quickly find plenty of adventure, friendships, and discoveries. This absolute delight of a novel will leave you smiling and craving a trip to The Marigold Hotel.
An Available Man
What happens when you suddenly become single late in life? That’s what happens to Edward Schuyler when his wife dies, and he finds himself awash in female attention but still desperately missing his wife, Bee. He continues about his normal routine of gardening and birdwatching until his stepchildren place a personal ad in The New York Review of Books. Soon the letters start pouring in, and his longing for connection is too strong to ignore. Through dates both comical and sad, Edward comes to understand that love and loneliness go hand in hand, and that life can always start over.
If you’re a sucker for a protagonist that’s a bit of a curmudgeon on the outside but a softie on the inside, you’ve most likely read A Man Called Ove. And that means you’re probably itching to read anything that will warm your heart like Ove did, which is exactly why we’ve compiled a list of companion books for that Fredrik Backman favorite. Choose any from this list, settle in for a heartwarming read, and make sure you have a box of tissues at the ready.
Featured Image by Jinny Kwon