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Time for Book Club! A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

Time for Book Club! A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

As with all book clubs, a great part of the joy of our Imaginary Book Club is reading together and chatting about what we’ve read as a group. For more info on how our online book club work, and the many ways you can participate, hop over here or sign up to read with us.

Each month our #ReadWithIBC post is the place for a spoilers-allowed, debate-Encouraged discussion of our latest read.

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A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others. “If there was an award for ‘Most Charming Book of the Year,’ this first novel by a Swedish blogger-turned-overnight-sensation would win hands down” (Booklist, starred review).

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46 Comments

  1. Imaginary Book Club

    Part of the fascination of Ove is how his past is revealed piece by piece. What surprised you about Ove’s past? Why do you think it was revealed this way?

    Reply
    • Whitney

      I think this was a core component that made the story more enjoyable. If you hadn’t seen more and more of Ove’s past over time, you wouldn’t have felt quite as connected to him as you do with the gradual mounting pieces.

      Reply
      • Marie Anne

        I agree. I found myself looking forward to those past snippets in each chapter and then appreciate him more in his present time.

        Reply
    • bkkippes

      Seeing pieces of his past throughout the book gave you a bit by bit understanding of why he is so unlikable in the present and made him likable to the reader. This technique made you care whether he lives or dies by the end of the boook.

      Reply
    • Austyn Allie

      I don’t think anything really surprised me about his past. This book I loved because even though I found it incredibly predictable, I still felt involved and connected!

      Reply
  2. Imaginary Book Club

    Ove certainly lives up to being “as little unlike his father as possible.” How do you think Ove’s late-in-life changes match or don’t match his earlier way of thinking?

    Reply
    • Whitney

      I waffle back and forth on this! Ove seems at first glance to be crotchety and mean, but he isn’t really! He doesn’t even seem to change – it’s just that you see more and more of him, and realize that he’s actually quite warm in his own way. Sure, he’s direct and blunt, and sometimes a bit too straight forward, but he’s always got good intentions!

      Reply
      • Bev

        I think Ove does change, he begins to see people as people and not the name he makes up for them. He becomes a little less rough on the edges and a little more caring about other people. Also, because he lets more people into his life, they see that the things Ove does are not just the movements of a cantankerous old man but of a caring person,

        Reply
    • Austyn Allie

      I can’t say he actually changes! Even when he was younger he was fixing houses up while on vacation!

      Reply
  3. Imaginary Book Club

    One element that made A Man Called Ove slightly less heartbreaking was the use of humor throughout. When did you find yourself laughing when you felt you shouldn’t be?

    Reply
    • Jill K.

      There were so many times when Ove called someone a name, and it was so wrong, but just so funny.

      Reply
    • Bev

      I laughed at how bad Ove was at committing suicide.

      Reply
      • Whitney

        Omg, yes. When he fell on his butt I laughed out loud and then felt so bad!

        Reply
      • Jill

        Yes! How did I forget about that!

        Although it made me wonder if he really didn’t want to commit suicide. maybe he was failing on purpose?

        Reply
        • Austyn Allie

          Yes to laughing at the attempts, and yes to wondering if he really intended to go through with it! Basically anytime he interacted with his new neighbors 🙂

          Reply
    • Whitney

      I think I’ve landed on “No.” He doesn’t change! You just realize that he’s not his first impression.

      Reply
      • Marie Anne

        Yeah, it’s the people around him and the readers that changed. Don’t judge a book by its cover!

        Reply
    • Bev

      I think he does change, he becomes softer and more willing to allow people into his life.

      Reply
    • Austyn Allie

      Nope, he stays true to himself. If he really changes, then he wouldn’t have killed himself at the end. I agree with Whitney- he is just revealed more throughout the book.

      Reply
  4. Imaginary Book Club

    Do you think Parveneh’s perspective on life is different from Ove? Did you find them unlikely friends?

    Reply
    • Bev

      I think Parveneh enjoys living life and Ove doesn’t. For Ove, I think she is kind of a replacement for Sonja, whose personality brought out the best in Ove. I found their friendship as unlikely as I found Ove and Sonja’s love for each other, but sometimes people mesh when they seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum.

      Reply
    • Austyn Allie

      I found her to exude outwardly what Ove had inside, if that makes sense. I totally saw them as friends! Crotchety old people sometimes love people with sass, I’ve seen it and I’ve lived it!

      Reply
  5. Imaginary Book Club

    Although we all identify with Ove to some extent, especially by the end of the story, we certainly also have our differences with him. Which of the supporting cast (Parveneh, Jimmy, the Lanky One, Anita) did you find yourself identifying with most?

    Reply
    • Austyn Allie

      Parveneh. She’s my pregnant-lady-goal for the future!

      Reply
    • Whitney

      Um, awesome. Ove’s cat was just as weather-worn and beaten as he seemed to be. I did like that the cat gave Ove a bit of a new routine, but not so much of a change that it was really different. Not like having a strange kid move in with you! That was pretty monumental!

      Reply
    • Marie Anne

      The cat is Sonja’s spirit animal watching over Ove. (mic drop)

      Reply
      • Austyn Allie

        YES! It’s like you are in my head…

        Reply
    • Bev

      I think the cat was representative of Ove, as the bedraggled, unloved, dying creature. Ove helps bring the cat back to life and the cat helps bring Ove back, too.

      Reply
  6. Imaginary Book Club

    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?

    Reply
    • Marie Anne

      The key is Sonja! Her patience and ability to see through Ove is the reason why their love thrived. Sigh….

      Reply
    • Jill

      I think it worked because they didn’t try to change one another.

      Reply
  7. Imaginary Book Club

    Saab? Volvo? BWM? Did you understand Ove’s obsession with cars?

    Reply
    • Jill K.

      It reminded me of my husband. His father was a 40 year Goodyear employee, and he notices stuff like that. Believe me. Goodyear tires on an American made car only in our house.

      Reply
      • Whitney

        Haha, I hear you on that. I’ve never gotten car-brand loyalty myself, but I’ve certainly seen enough of it first hand to understand. It’s a bit more complex these days when “foreign brand” cars are actually made in the US…

        Reply
        • Jill

          And the parts to US cars are often made elsewhere.

          Reply
    • Bev

      I sure loved my Beamer!!

      Reply
  8. Imaginary Book Club

    A Man Called Ove was made into a film in 2015 (En Man Som Heter Ove). It’s available in Swedish with English subtitles and streaming on Amazon for $4.99 (http://amzn.to/2qwFY6u). The film version of a book is always going to create great debate. Have you seen it? What did you think? We have strong opinions.

    Reply
    • Whitney

      So many thoughts here. I was fortunate enough to watch this with Bev, and I was HIGHLY DISAPPOINTED. I really wanted to love it, but this was a case where they left out so much from the original story that it was almost too difficult to follow. They’d leave out whole pieces of the story, so you didn’t understand the motivations or background of the characters (like nothing on Jimmy’s past at all). I can’t imagine enjoying the movie without having read the book!

      Reply
    • Whitney

      Also, it’s summer through the whole film? Why? It snows for like, half a second in the stupid movie.

      Reply
      • Jill K.

        WHAT? That’s wrong.

        Reply
        • Whitney

          It was so disappointing! The poor cat doesn’t get rescued from a snow drift even!! What a random thing to change!

          Reply
    • Marie Anne

      While I did enjoy the movie, I think it can never capture the tone of the book. The narration itself provides the charm.

      Reply
    • Bev

      There were bits in the movie that I really enjoyed, like the rope burn on his neck after he tried to hang himself! And the actor who played Ove was a very believable curmudgeon.

      The Spain trip was disappointing because it didn’t show all of the things that Ove was doing to help people while Sonja slept.

      The part that really disappointed me was the ending, and that was the part of the book that I loved the most. While reading I thought that the book would have a predictable ending; Ove would get to be likable, then he would die. But the book didn’t have that predictable ending, he got more likeable had a heart attack, went to the hospital and lived for three more years growing older and loving his adopted “grandchildren”. The move ended; heart attack, hospital, come home and die a couple of days later, after the first snow.

      I wanted to love the movie, but I am usually disappointed when I watch a movie after reading a book, unfortunately this movie was no different.

      Reply
      • Austyn Allie

        I haven’t watched it yet! Now I’m not sure I want to :/

        Reply

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