Ove, Welcome to Team {Book Club}

Today we will discuss the final section (Chapters 30 – The End) of A Man Called Ove, by Fredrick Backman.

I really wish we were in person to discuss the ending and how the book built up to the climax and resolution. I was struck how much this section mirrored this week’s theme: Welcome to Team.

From the very beginning of Chapter 30 to the end of the book, the power of team was woven in. Side-note: Team is not where the “secret sauce” is. Healthy teams are. May I recommend The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni. Even though it has the word “business” in the title, don’t let that throw you. I believe this book has the power to form and influence your team and organization more than any other book I’ve read this year.

In Chapter 30 we read, “The days and weeks floated together in such a way, and in such utter silence, that he could hardly describe what exactly he was doing. Before Parvaneh and that Patrick backed into his mailbox he could barely remember saying a word to another human being since Sonja died.”

And on the next page we read, “It was as if he didn’t want other people to talk to him, he was afraid that their chattering voices would drown out the memory of her voice.”

When you have been a part of something good—in this case, his marriage with Sonja—it can be hard to risk relationships again, isn’t it? Equally hard is being burnt by a relationship.

But then Parvaneh starts to break though the walls of protection he built and his plan to join Sonja kept getting put on hold. “And this was the reason Ove did not die today. Because he was detained by something that made him sufficiently angry to hold his attention.” (Chapter 31) Those white shirts! Telling him that he should know he cannot do anything against them and should just go watch TV. When he and Parvaneh fight over whether or not they can do something, my heart broke when Ove sunk to the ground after she left. And he cried.

All of this White Shirts talk and the sense of being powerless got me to wonder if we feel less powerless when we share the “fight.” Most of Ove’s campaigning over the years seemed to be done alone. Sort of “Ove vs. The World.” I know that being powerless is still being powerless, but I wonder what a difference it might have made to Ove if he could have found someone or a group to share the battle with. To share the small victories and the losses, to strategize and plan and pray together?

By Chapter 32, the Ove vs. The World set-up reaches a tipping point. It turns out that though Ove says he isn’t “running a damn hotel,” he is. First Cat Annoyance, then Mirsad. By the next morning, when Ove goes to do his inspection, he was no longer inspecting alone. The motley crew of Cat Annoyance, Mirsad, and Jimmy the jogger join him. Whether Ove wants to be part of a team or not, one is forming around him.

I love how attentive Ove was to Sonja, taking a special chair out to her gravesite to break the news that he wouldn’t be joining her because “there is a bloody war on” with the White Shirts. When Ove yelled, “We need a new plan! Immediately!” he finally stopped fighting the White Shirts alone. And when the quirky team (Really, are there any others in ministry? Part of our endearingness) was mobilized, and together, together!, they were able to keep Rune home.

I teared up when Ove sent them all out because he needed to talk to Rune “without disruptions.” And later the whole gang went to Sonja’s grave to meet Sonja and Parvaneh wanted to speak with Sonja alone. It is good when your people meet each other, isn’t it? If you’ve had family come to the field and get to meet your teammates and coworkers, it is such a blessing!

At the end of that chapter when Ove sees the look in the seven-year-old’s eyes and he recognizes it. (Ah, that’s what he’s doing at the beginning of the book buying an iPad, has it really only been three weeks?!) There are two kinds of people. Those who understand how extremely useful white cables can be, and those who don’t. Ha! But when the recipient says, “Thanks, Granddad” I had to stop reading while the tears dried up.

And then when he was stabbed and told Parvaneh not to let the ambulance drive in I had a flash back. One summer when I was around 12 I was on a camp horse ride quite a ways in the wilderness. Suddenly I was no longer on top of the horse, but on the ground. With a pretty bad head wound. Well, not that bad, but you know how head wounds bleed and bleed. The leader got off his horse and ran back to me. He wanted to use the bottom of my shirt to stop the blood. Absolutely no way was that going to happen. I remember my mom saying how much blood stains and I was wearing a beloved Denver Broncos t-shirt. I would bleed out on principle before I let my shirt be stained. Ove, I feel ya!

“Grief is a strange thing.” (Ove after Sonja’s death.) “Love is a strange thing.” (Parvaneh at the hospital.) Both are deeply true. Did anyone else think of how similar the hospital scene was to Sonja’s in Spain? And then we are told that Ove’s heart is too big. and we were in on the joke with Parvaneh!

Parvaneh “opens the door with the spare key he’s given her, charges into the living room, stumbles up the stairs in her wet slippers, and, with her heart in her mouth, fumbles her way into his bedroom.” That’s how I felt. My heart was in my mouth.

This book had me physically reacting to it—I laughed, I teared up, I could feel my throat constrict at points, my heart raced at other points. Sometimes I was so annoyed with Ove. SO annoyed. Others, I felt protective of him, which I know he would hate!

All this to say, I really enjoyed reading this book with you! What did you think? See you in the comments . . .

Amy

P.S. Next week Kimberlee Conway Ireton will be here as we continue to walk through the Church Year. The following week we will start The Curious Christian: How Discovering Wonder Enriches Every Part of Life by Barnabas Piper. I chose this for September, because every now and then, it is a good spiritual practice to cultivate curiosity. Our fall book will be Facing Danger: A Guide Through Risk by Dr Anna E Hampton. From Amazon: “After living for almost a decade in the high-risk and dangerous environment of Afghanistan, Facing Danger works through how Anna attempted to raise her children without emotional and long-term trauma while simultaneously living out her calling to partner in a divine endeavor in a hostile culture. This is the real world where a biblical understanding of risk must work.”

11 Comments

  1. Michele August 28, 2017

    I loved this book and got really caught up in the emotions of it too! That whole battle with the white-shirts is probably where I connected the most. I spent three years trying to reason, trying to find someone to appeal to, trying anything to change the way the children I was helping to teach and care for were treated by other teachers and hostel staff. I learned that it was strange to anyone (including, maybe especially) the children that I would even try. In their culture those in power do what they want and I was openly mocked for thinking there would be any change. Your thoughts about Ove doing that battle alone for so long rang true- I was alone there. I now work in a neighboring country with a network of people all trying to fight another kind of social injustice, and it is much less disheartening despite the challenges!

    On another note, my mom (with whom I’m living this summer) just downloaded the movie A Man Called Ove this last weekend. It was kind of fun to watch, though obviously had differences with the book and lacked a lot that is given in the narration. What surprised me was how like the characters in my imagination those on the screen were- something that doesn’t usually happen when a book gets made into a movie! 🙂

    1. Kiera August 28, 2017

      I didn’t realize it had been made into a movie. I was going to say that I think this book could make a fantastic movie if they stuck to the book and didn’t mess it up with extra drama. The dialogue and the characters are so rich. I am still stuck on the Shrek idea and so I often hear Ove’s voice in my head with a Scottish accent even though he’s Swedish. I usually don’t like watching the movies made of books that I like because they mess up the characters as they exist in my head, but with your thumbs up on that, Michele, I just might have to watch this movie. 🙂

    2. Amy Young August 31, 2017

      Hey Michele, as I read your comment I felt like I wanted to cheer you on AND felt exhausted at the uphill battle you faced. I am thankful that you are not having to go it alone any more!

      Were you able to watch the extra info on your copy? I’m not sure why, but it delighted me that Cat Annoyance was actually played by two cats!

  2. Kiera August 28, 2017

    This section was the richest one yet. I found it funnier and more heart-breaking/heart-warming than all the rest. Here is my favorite funny part: (pg. 249)
    “Coffee, then. Black.”
    Adrian scratches his hair under the cap.
    “So…espresso?’
    “No. Coffee.”
    Adrian transfers his scratching from hair to chin.
    “What…like black coffee?”
    “Yes.”
    “With milk?”
    “If it’s with milk it’s not black coffee.”
    Adrian moves a couple of sugar bowls on the counter. Mainly to have something to do, so he doesn’t look too silly. A bit late for that, thinks Ove.
    “Normal filter coffee. Normal bloody filter coffee,” Ove repeats.
    Adrian nods.
    “Oh that…Well. I don’t know how to make it.”
    Ove points aggressively at the percolator in the corner, only barely visible behind a gigantic silver spaceship of a machine, which, Ove understands, is what they use for making espresso.
    “Oh, that one, yeah,” says Adrian, as if the penny has just dropped. “Ah…I don’t know how that thing works.”
    “Should have bloody known…” mutters Ove as he walk around the counter and takes matters into his own hands.

    Heart-breaking/heart-warming is the back story of Jimmy, Ove getting the best iPad for Parvaneh’s daughter (am I right in thinking we don’t know her name? why not when we have names for the rest of the family members?), Parvaneh’s reaction (grief) to Ove’s heart attack, her laughter when the doctor says his heart is too big (made me think of the Grinch) and her comment that Ove is horrible at dying, the 300 people at Ove’s funeral and how annoyed he would be by it all.

    Lastly, I had a funny moment that reminded me of Ove this past week. I’ve just returned to the country so maybe this is nothing new, but I have noticed that in my part of the country, people will mark with chalk on the sidewalk a circle around some trash or dog poop and then write a note like, “pick up after your dog” or “pick up your trash.” Do people do this where you live? I saw it again last week after just finishing Ove and it reminded me so much of him, although I think I remember at the beginning of the book, he thought it was silly to leave a note and he just put away the bike that was leaning against the wall of the shed. Regardless, I think of Ove every time I see one of these messages now. Haha.

    1. Raven Cruz August 31, 2017

      Kiera, the last bit about writing those comments on the sidewalk with chalk had me laughing! People don’t do that here, but I wouldn’t mind if they did! It definitely would remind me of Ove in the same manner.

    2. Amy Young August 31, 2017

      That chalk part? Classic. Thank you for sharing it!!!

      AND I couldn’t remember Parvaneh’s other daughter’s name either. I think it was mentioned, but it was going to require too much hunting to find it :).

  3. Raven Cruz August 31, 2017

    I loved this book! I think it was a great choice.

    My favorite in this last section was this, “At first you fall in love with all the new things, amazed every morning that all this belongs to you, as if fearing that someone would suddenly come rushing in through the door to explain that a terrible mistake had been made, you weren’t actually supposed to live in a wonderful place like this. Then over the years the walls become weathered, the wood splinters here and there, and you start to love that house not so much because of all its perfection, but rather for its imperfections. You get to know all the nooks and crannies. How to avoid getting the key caught in the lock when it’s cold outside. Which of the floorboards flex slightly when one steps on them or exactly how to open the wardrobe doors without them creaking. These are the little secrets that make it your home.” I can definitely see the parallel in cross-cultural living. You begin to see the small parts of living that you love to hate…so to speak..just because that is exactly what makes it what it is.

    1. Amy Young August 31, 2017

      That quote stood out to me too, Raven! And I love your tie-in with cross-cultural living. So true. So true!

    2. Michele September 3, 2017

      That is so true! It’s true of life in another culture and true of team life too!

  4. sarah September 4, 2017

    Loved the connection of this section with team, Amy! It’s so true- they really started functioning like a team instead of friends or neighbors.
    And I was thinking about Jimmy’s backstory and realized Ove and Rune used to function like a team before they had their parting of ways. Which makes it even more heartwarming when Ove gathers the new team to save Rune.
    The scene when Ove is in the operating room and people are having to physically restrain Parvenah from going in and she’s flipping benches and crying on the floor was so beautiful, hard and true. Even tho I never act like that, when someone I love is in danger or hurting, I wish I could act like that. I love that Parvenah loved him like that.

  5. Phyllis September 7, 2017

    I laughed and cried a lot, too, especially in this section. Thank you for choosing this book. I don’t think I had ever even heard of it before, and I loved it! I stayed up way too late last night, reading to finish before the Kindle book went back to the library this morning.

    Has anyone read other books by this author? Are they as good? I think I’m going to try some.

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