More is understood about Ove in A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman in this week’s Chapters 10-19.
This paradox stood out to me:
Ove has been deeply hurt by people. In chapter 12 we read, “He knew very well that some people thought he was nothing but a grumpy old sod without any faith in people. But, to put it bluntly, that was because people had never given him reason to see it another way.”
After his house burned down and Tom called him a thief as Ove was getting in the shower, when he got out of the shower and his dad’s watch was gone: “Maybe it was because Tom had put the blame on him for the theft in the carriage. Maybe it was the fire. Maybe it was the bogus insurance agent. Or the white shirts . . . A time comes in every man’s life when he decides what sort of man he is going to be. Whether he is the kind who lets other people tread on him, or not.”
His mom died young, his dad died young, his house burned to the ground and he was forced to sell it, he was cheated by the insurance man, his wife has died, and he was let go from his job very abruptly. Yes, Ove has been kicked by life.
And yet, also woven is the kindness of people. The foreman at the construction site who turned a blind eye and let Ove take wood. The fellow workers who called him “The Puppy” and gave him used tools and then bought him new tools. His landlady who suggested he get flowers for Sonja on their first date. And Sonja. I can see why Ove described her as “all color.”
When Sonja asked him what he wanted to do, my heart melted a bit because it was the first time someone had actually asked him what HE wanted. Thanks to her, he took the housing course.
I love how animals are bit characters who actually are main characters:
So far, the cat is named Cat Annoyance. This cracks me up. Ove certainly doesn’t go for the shortest nickname, but the one that captures his true feeling. While the scene between Ove and the Cat Annoyance in the car isn’t the most believable—would a cat really push the newspaper away and then rip the new paper so he could put his paw on the seat?—I can picture these two, the grumpy old man and the scruffy cat, at Sonja’s grave.
They both have been kicked down by life. They both can be brought back to life through love, compassion, and companionship.
And who doesn’t love a cat named after Ernest Hemingway? (Though he is not on my favorite authors list!) Through Ernest, we see Sonja’s love of cats and how when you love something deeply enough, your love pours out and touches those around you.
I smile when Ove apologetically told Sonja’s grave that, “He [the cat] looked that way when he came . . . so it wasn’t me who broke him.” Sonja’s kindness and compassion weren’t ended just because her life was.
My favorite scenes:
In the past, scenes with Sonja. I can feel the deep love they had for each other.
In the present, I cannot get enough of the interaction between Ove and Parvaneh. Though she can give it to him like no one else, there is a tenderness to her exasperation. When she goes into the kitchen and realizes Sonja had been in a wheelchair, I could feel her sorrow for bursting into a part of his life he hadn’t shared. She is on to Ove trying to kill himself and I love how she is not addressing it directly. Well, she did ask, “What are you doing?” with the car hose. But she didn’t push it. Instead she’s making him take care of Cat Annoyance. This just makes me smile.
This week’s theme (Welcome to Living Cross-Culturally):
While Ove had several major transitions in his life, the two that seemed the most cross-cultural to me were marrying Sonja and no longer doing life so isolated and alone. That transition seemed to have gone smoothly and invited life. A fuller sense of being alive for Ove.
The second is the new land he finds himself in: widowhood.
What a difference it makes when we willing to choose to live cross-culturally instead of having our hand forced. Ove isn’t living all that well, actually, he’s been trying pretty hard to not-live (failed at three different attempts.) For those of you who have friends or family who have attempted or committed suicide, I’d be curious how reading so much about suicide is effecting you. I have someone very near to me who had a serious attempt about thirty years ago, and like Ove, I don’t think she wanted to die so much as to just not go on living as she was.
Did you know A Man Called Ove is also a movie? Maybe don’t watch it until we finish the book, but I enjoyed seeing the trailer.
What annoys you about Ove? As you learn more about him, how does that influence how you see him? Does it help you to have compassion on grumpy people around you? Which scenes are you particularly enjoying?
See you in the comments!
A Man Called Ove
August 8: Chapters 1-9
August 15: Chapters 10-19
August 22: Chapters 20-29
August 29: Chapters 30-The End