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 . . .
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