Ove Finds It’s All Incredibly Irritating {Book Club}

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.

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

Photo by Søren Astrup Jørgensen on Unsplash


  1. Kiera August 15, 2017

    As I read about Ove and the Cat Annoyance, thoughts of Shrek and Donkey started going through my mind. Shrek has been told he’s ugly and horrifying and a menace; Ove has been called a thief and cheated and mistreated. Yet the Cat seems to stubbornly keep showing up around him and, while I am not an animal person, the last words of chapter 19 where the Cat touches Ove’s hand in comfort is moving.

    I am enjoying the bits of pieces of Ove and Sonja’s story that are being revealed. Like you said, in an earlier post, the flash-backs aren’t abrupt and jarring, but rather like uncovering layers and fitting puzzle pieces together.

  2. Ruth August 15, 2017

    Ove is growing on me, as is the book. After the first section all the jumping between current and flashbacks was annoying to me, but as I get farther into it, it feels smoother and less jarring.

    I wonder what Ove would be like if he’d had people around him to help process his grief. This was a very telling statement to me: “Ove, for someone who had run into death as much as he had in his life, had a very paltry relationship to his feelings about it, and he pushed it all away in some confusion in the kitchen of the forest cottage.” All these losses keep piling up, and it seems like his coping method is to not let himself feel and to deal with life according to his really strict principles and rules.

    1. sarah August 17, 2017

      That line also really stuck out to me. Hadn’t thought, tho, of what the story might have been if Ove had had a guidance counselor or loving relative come along side him and take care of him in his grief. An interesting thought.

  3. Raven August 17, 2017

    I finished the book earlier this week! So good!

    This quote, “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.” definitely stuck out to me. I also smiled in Ch. 19, when he was telling Sonja that the cat was already that way. I pictured it as Ove matter of factly saying that “this is the way it is, so don’t blame it on me” type of thing…kinda shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head. I love seeing the level of connection they still have.

    Without giving anything away, I’m so glad the bit about buying the computer/iPad thing came back around. The entire way through I was still questioning why he would want something like that given the personality/views Ove has. So sweet!

  4. sarah August 17, 2017

    The part about his house burning down (his last connection to his parents) and Ernest’s death right after Sonja’s dad died really got to me. Like Sonja said when Ernest died, it’s just too much loss. At the time I read the book, that was a phrase that had already been running through my head for a couple months, “Too much loss! Too much loss!” But, strangely I found “Ove” encouraging. All that loss and yet life goes on. All that loss, and yet Life! It made me really grateful for Jesus and that all the losses we face in this crazy life aren’t meaningless or random. That life isn’t just a bunch of random stuff happening and then we die, but that we have a wonderfully good Saviour directing it all with purpose and for a reason.
    And, I love the Cat Annoyance. I know at times he’s a bit more than a cat- the least believable part of the book so far. And yet, he’s just so great, broken as he is.

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