A Man Called Ove


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I read the large print version of this book.  The chapters are short and I moved through it at a good pace.  I estimate that I read the book in approximately seven hours.  It was very enjoyable - one of those books that you feel like the people have become your friends.  Ove is described as a curmudgeon but I saw a lot of my husband in him which made the book rather humorous for me.  If I had any doubt that Ove was like my husband I was convinced in Ch. 14 (p. 192) - 15 years later and my husband still complains that I was late to our first date.  

Ove was born around 1950 and grouches his way through life.  His view of the world is, "This was a world where one became outdated before one's time was up.  An entire country standing up and applauding the fact that no one was capable of doing anything properly anymore.  The unreserved celebration of mediocrity." (p. 123)  His wife's view of Ove is that, "He believed so strongly in things: justice and fair play and hard work and a world where right just had to be right.  Not so one could get a medal or a diploma or a slap on the back for it, but just because that was how it was supposed to be." (Ch. 16 - p. 216)

On a scale of 1 - 5 (5 being a lot of examples/instances):

Sex:  0

Religion:  0

Gruesome:  0

Suspense:  1

Morality:  3

Traditional:  2

Sex - not even alluded to

Religion - no mention of church, Sundays are spent at a coffee shop

Gruesome - several methods of death are discussed and there are a few accidents but nothing gruesome

Suspense - there is some major foreshadowing so suspense is out the window, but I did have an underlying curiosity about how things were going to happen

Morality - Ove is a very middle of the road kind of guy.  He believes in doing what's right, but sometimes has an unorthodox way of getting it done.

Traditional - late in the book a couple of gay characters are introduced (Ch. 29 - p. 356) and a marriage eventually results, complete with an adopted child.  There are several instances of minor cursing that provide the book with an authentic voice but could cause discomfort for some.  A couple get pregnant, then buy a house, then get married - out of a traditional order.

This book is wonderfully full of subtle humor, for example, regarding neighbors who traded in a Volvo for a BMW, "You just couldn't reason with a person who behaved like that." (p. 78)

Discussion Questions

Can you identify with the frustration Ove experienced with new technology in Chapter 1?

How much Ove is in you?  (Road rage?  Do you make up nicknames for people?  Do you assume you know about what people are thinking or their motivations?  How easily are you annoyed by others?  How inflexible are you regarding rules?)

What did you think the hook was for that Ove kept wanting to hang up in the beginning of the book?  What clues did you pick up on?

Do you think Tom killed Ove's dad?  (pgs. 69 & 110)

The book is full of wisdom.  What were some of your favorites?  Here are some examples:
  • ...only a swine thinks size and strength are the same thing. (Ch. 5 - p. 61)
  • We're not the sort of people who tell tales about what others do... (Ch. 5 - p. 68)
  • Men are what they are because of what they do.  Not what they say... (Ch. 8 - p. 116)
  • You only need one ray of light to chase all the shadows away... (Ch. 12 - p. 159)
  • ...a time comes in every man's life when he decides what sort of man he's going to be: the kind who lets other people walk all over him, or not. (Ch. 12 - p. 160)
  • A time like that comes for every man, when he chooses what sort of man he wants to be.  And if you don't know the story, you don't know the man. (Ch. 12 - p. 166)
  • If you can't depend on someone being on time, you shouldn't trust 'em with anything more important either... (Ch. 14 - p. 192)
  • All people want to live dignified lives; dignity just means something different to different people... (Ch. 32 - p. 387)
Did you wonder why the Lanky One wanted to pry open the upstairs window anyway if it was snowing?

Did Sonja choose Ove because he was like her dad? (Ch. 16)

Ove and Sonja got pregnant, bought a house, then got married. (Ch. 20 - p. 258)  Does this contradict Ove's character of doing things right?

How does Ove's anger serve him in life? Would he have gotten the same results with kindness?  What does this say about society?

Discuss death as described in Ch. 39 (p. 456):
Death is a strange thing.  People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it's often one of the great motivations for living.  Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more fury.  Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis.  Others become so preoccupied with it that they go into the waiting room long before it has announced its arrival.  We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves.  For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by.  And leave us there alone.
Compare and contrast this with the end of life as described in Ch. 39 (p. 457):
And time is a curious thing.  Most of us only live for the time that lies right ahead of us.  A few days, weeks, years.  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.  And when time no longer lies ahead of one, other things have to be lived for.  Memories, perhaps.  Afternoons in the sun with someone's hand clutched in one's own.  The fragrance of flowerbeds in fresh bloom.  Sundays in a cafe.  Grandchildren, perhaps.  One finds a way of living for the sake of someone else's future.  And it wasn't as if Ove also died when Sonja left him.  He just stopped living.  / Grief is a strange thing.

Theme Ideas

Serve rice with saffron and chicken like the neighbor girls brought Ove in Ch. 3. (p. 36)

Serve Iranian / Persian cookies in a blue plastic box like the neighbors brought Ove in Ch. 7. (p. 88)

Serve sausages and potatoes like Ove often ate. (p. 109)

Serve homemade apple pie like the neighbors gave Ove after he painted their fence in Ch. 10. (p. 132)

Decorate with Kronor and Ore and Swedish flags.  Serve Swedish food.

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