A Man Called Ove By Fredrik Backman: My Review Plus Answers To Book Club Discussion Questions

A Man Called OveThis is my review and thoughts on A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Rating system:

God, I wish I had that time back in my life = 0
Eh, it wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read = 1
Shrug, I mean, it was okay = 2
I enjoyed it = 3

Have your read this book? It’s pretty good = 4
Wow, you need to read this book now = 5

A Man Called Ove = 5

I know, I know! I haven’t given a 5 in a really long time! I honestly adored this book and seriously never wanted it to end. I wish I could get up at the crack of dawn and go on Ove’s morning checks with him every single day for the rest of my life.

Here are my answers to book club questions (questions provided by the publisher).

We all know our own grumpy old men. How do Ove’s core values lead him to appear as such a cranky old coot, when he is in fact nothing of the sort? Which of these values do you agree or disagree with?

I disagree with this question, he is a cranky old man, however, that’s not the only thing he is. People want to restrict individuals into one type of person, and that does everyone a disservice. Ove likes things the way he likes them, his wife knew that. Yet, he also believes in honor, loyalty, hard work, devotion, and doing the right thing. His wife loved him for those qualities as well. People are more than just one thing. 

Parveneh’s perspective on life, as radically different from Ove’s as it is, eventually succeeds in breaking Ove out of his shell, even if she can’t change his feelings about Saabs. How does her brash, extroverted attitude manage to somehow be both rude and helpful?

Her perspective is not much different that Ove’s, it is just the way she goes about it that is different. As they say, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Ove recognizes this in Parveneh. Ove appreciates her honesty, her straightforwardness, her high regard for people. Just because he is not extroverted, does not mean he can’t appreciate another persons good qualities. For instance, Sonja is an extrovert and Ove adores her. Sonja is extremely similar to Parveneh and that is also a quality that Ove identifies with. Sonja helped people and saw the best in them, so does Parveneh. 

The truism “it takes a village to raise a child” has some resonance with A Man Called Ove. How does the eclectic cast of posers, suits, deadbeats, and teens each help Ove in their own way?

Each individual helps Ove see the world around him. They give him a chance to be the very best of himself. Adrian allows him to remain connected to Sonja, but also to connect with that part of him that knew the value of hard work. They bond over Adrian’s two jobs, pride in his desire to be his own man represented by owning a car. Ove doesn’t judge Adrian solely on his teenage exterior. He cuts down on the bullshit and finds what is wonderful about Adrian. Parveneh’s children allow Ove to take a more relaxed view on the world, to simply enjoy life for what it is, and also to be seen for more than a grumpy old man. The three year old is the one who most easily sees through Ove’s gruff exterior. Jimmy is a sign of loyalty to Ove. Ove once helped Jimmy’s family out, and Jimmy will never forget it. Jimmy saw that Ove was a stand up guy, what it meant to hold principles, especially in the face of his mother’s abusive boyfriend. Jimmy keeps a respectful distance, honoring Ove’s tendency to want to be a loner, but at each opportunity to help Ove, he does. These are just three examples.   

What did you make of Ove’s ongoing battle with the bureaucracies that persist in getting in his way? Is Ove’s true fight with the various ruling bodies, or are they stand-ins, scapegoats, for something else?

I think it is both. Of course he is going to fight with the bureaucracies – Ove believes in being the type of man who does what they say they will. The government is supposed to protect and take care of the people, but in Ove’s experiences, they don’t. They don’t follow through on taking care of people when they need it most. Even the simplest thing, like putting up a ramp for the love of his life, an easy decision, isn’t done. He has every right to be mad. Then, of course, it takes on more meaning for Ove. Ove is mad about what happened to his wife. This woman, who never did anything wrong, has something bad happen to her, and someone needs to pay. The situation evolves to mean both situations to Ove. 

After a younger Ove punches Tom, the author reflects: “A time like that comes for all men, when they choose what sort of men they want to be.” Do you agree with this sentiment, especially in this context? How does the book deal with varying ideas of masculinity.

One way the book deals with the concept is the specific incident regarding Tom. The concept is whether one will stick up for oneself. Most people have to decide at one point or another if they are going to be the type of person who lets life, and others, push them around or not. Ove says no. 

Another way the book deals with this theme is in regards to Mirsad. Ove is about as masculine as they come, by outdated standards, however, he never judges Mirsad’s manhood for being gay, despite Ove’s inability to use politically correct terms. Being a man, to Ove, is more than just your sexuality. It’s doing the right thing. It’s minding your own business — in Ove’s opinion, it’s none of his business who Mirsad loves. All that matters to Ove is if a person does the right thing, treats people well, handles their own business. So, from the outside, one might expect based on those outdates standards that Ove would not support Mirsad. Yet, Ove is a real man, and accepts Mirsad for who he is. 

The larger theme though doesn’t apply to just men, I think it applies to all humans. We are confronted daily — on the grand scale and small, about what type of people we want to be. Do we want to be the type of person who accepts people or not? Do we want to be the type of person who inserts themselves into other people’s business or not (this is one of the reasons Ove does not like the lady with the dog)? The book states it’s deciding what kind of man one wants to be, but, really, it’s what kind of person.

The author muses that when people don’t share sorrow, it can drive them apart. Do you agree with this? Why or why not?

I do agree with this. Only sharing in the good times doesn’t make a person. A person’s true identity can come out when the chips are down. If people don’t step up, resentments can form, and then lead to people being driven apart. The real measure of a good human being is not how they act when things are going well, but when they are going badly. 

What do you think of Ove’s relationship with the mangy cat he adopts? What does the cat allow him to express that he couldn’t otherwise say?

I think he likes the fact that the cat is ornery — that it seems mangy and rugged from simply living life. He likes the fact that the cat is a bit challenging. I don’t think Ove would love a dog as much. I think he likes talking to the cat because the cat doesn’t talk back — it communicates with as little nonverbal communication as possible. It allows Ove to work through his emotions without the complication of dealing with someone else’s emotions at the same time. To do that, that would be overwhelming to Ove. Plus, who doesn’t like an underdog. 

On Ove and Sonja’s trip to Spain, Ove spends his time helping the locals and fixing things. How does Ove the “hero” compare and contrast to his behavior in the rest of the book? Is that Ove’s true personality?

Again, I think that people have many sides to their personalities. Ove was younger and a lot more open with his free time and responsibilities. Before Sonja was injured, he could afford the time to work on other people’s problems. Once injured, he focused even more of his attention on her. Just because he didn’t always display his goodwill, didn’t mean that it wasn’t there. Once Sonja died, he had more time to devote to other people.

Ove and Sonja’s love story is one of the most affecting, tender parts of the book. What is the key to their romance? Why do they fit so well together?

The key is loving each other unconditionally. They stand by each other’s sides. They accept each other for who they are — Ove more quiet, Sonja more outgoing. 

That concludes my answers to the discussion questions, however, I’d like to comment more on what I thought was one of the most beautiful plot threads of the book — Ove’s acceptance of Mirsad. I thought this was the most standout, signature moment in the book that really tied together all of who Ove was in his heart and soul, encompassing all of the life lessons that he learned.

Mirsad was a reflection of his own lost child. Ove wouldn’t have cared if his own son was gay, what type of job he had, or anything else … he just wanted a child to love. It tied together Ove’s determination that one did not interfere in other people’s business. If a man was gay, that was his business. Ove didn’t need to turn LGBTQ people away, inact laws, or anything like that because it was that person’s business.

Mirsad represented Ove’s generosity. The boy needed a place to stay, so Ove gave him one. Simple as that. Ove knew he would not be the type of man that left a teenage boy without a place to live.

Mirsad’s situation also represented his continued love for Sonja. Even though Ove took the boy in for his own reasons, he also did it because it would have been what Sonja would have wanted. He was loyal and faithful to her even though she wasn’t physically there. Ove’s love for Sonja transcended death.

The whole situation surrounding Mirsad was Ove at his best. I thought it was the culmination of the book.

Since it was an audiobook, I must comment on the production quality and state it was fabulous. In fact, I recommend that you listen to the audiobook instead of simply reading the book if you have an option. The narrator increased my enjoyment of the book and I thank him for that. Too often an audiobook can be hampered by a poor narrator. I honestly wonder if I would have liked California better (no, I wouldn’t) if the narrator had been different.

Until next time.

****

Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at Amazon.com, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook at madelinefresco.com. Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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