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A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman Summary Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of A Man Called Ove


Plot

When we first meet Ove, he is in a computer store shopping for a computer. He looks at iPads and cannot understand why they don't have keyboards. He gets angry and storms out. The purpose of this scene is to show us that Ove is old fashioned and set in his ways. We are supposed to think it is funny or cute how Ove screams at salesmen demanding a keyboard.


Ove goes on patrol around his neighborhood, making sure that people are obeying the rules governing where they can drive, and where they can park. He writes down the license plates of cars. You get the impression he is a control freak. He even wanted cameras in the garbage disposal area to make sure everyone was recycling properly. He even smells the ground to try to detect if a dog has urinated there. He's acting like Hitler Jr.

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Meanwhile, Ove cancels his telephone line and newspaper subscription. He also keeps pining to put a hook in the ceiling. At first we are not told why he is doing these things, but it quickly becomes apparent that he is planning to kill himself. We are not told why he wants to kill himself, only much later in the book when we learn that he is devastated by his wife, Sonja's, untimely death.


Ove sees someone jogging. He thinks people who jog are smug. He thinks they dress up like "14 year old Romanian gymnasts" just to "shuffle aimlessly around the block for three quarters of an hour". Ove is very judgmental and bitter.


His neighbor Parvaneh (he calls "The Pregnant Foreign Woman") and her semi-cuckolded husband Patrick (he calls "The Lanky One") are parking their car and a trailer and run over Ove's mailbox. Ove is outraged. We are supposed to think he's unreasonable. But in reality anyone would be unhappy to see their mailbox run over. Ove helps them park their car and trailer. This is important because it marks the first time Ove helps Parvaneh and Mr. Cuckold, the first of many times Ove does so which helps distract him from his suicidal tendencies. It is Ove's relationship with Parvaneh (not so much the cuckold) which convinces him more than anything not to kill himself.


Parvaneh gives Ove some chicken to be friendly. Ove is emotionally constipated and doesn't know how to express gratitude. His character has not yet evolved.


Ove makes coffee for his wife and himself and drives her to the shopping center. Only at the end of this chapter do we find out his wife is long dead and he is just playing mind games with himself because he is so sad at her loss. We learn once again what a control freak he is because he insists on keeping the temperature low to save money, and he roams the house to be sure that his dead wife has not raised the temperature on the radiators.


When Ove drives to the shopping center he gets into a road rage battle with a Mercedes. The Mercedes is driving unnaturally slowly so Ove races past it; and when he gets to the center first, he cuts the Mercedes off when it looking for a parking spot. This is another example showing us that Ove is a very angry person.


Ove circles the parking lot over and over to find a parking spot close to the store. He's compulsive.


Ove recalls when he was a kid and worked with his Dad on the trains he found a wallet. Ove decided to turn it in, showing us how honest he is. He's so honest, in fact, that when his father died Ove went to the train people and tried to return the unearned portion of his father's salary. The train people took pity on Ove and persuaded the nutty man to "work off" the remainder of the salary they had paid, paving the way for Ove to get a job with the train people.


We learn when Ove's wife died on a Friday, Ove was back at work on Monday. It's an example of his emotional constipation--he has no way of expressing his feelings.

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Characters

Ove: Ove is an old, bitter man. From the start he's not very communicative, and a fanatical control freak, and, frankly, more than a little emotionally constipated. He lives in a cooperative community and he always roams around and patrols to make sure everyone is following the rules. People should only drive in certain places, people should only leave their bikes in certain places, and so on. Everything in his home is arranged and orderly. Every time he tries to kill himself he makes sure his affairs are in order. He's also emotionally constipated, having trouble expressing feelings or showing empathy for others. Even worse, however, is that Ove is depressed that his wife, Sonja, has died. This depression leads him to try and kill himself multiple times, and to be mean towards others. Also I think this book takes place in Sweden because Ove mentions "Kronars" which is the currency of Sweden, although it also might be Danish instead. But the book certainly could not take place in Zimbabwe or Ecuador because there are exactly zero people named Ove in Zimbabwe and Ecuador.

Rune: Run is Ove's neighbor who Ove at times loves and at times hates. They squabbled over rules for their cooperative community. Rune is very sick with Alzheimer's and the local government keeps threatening throughout the book to take him away and put him in some kind of nursing home. Ove hates the government for trying to do that.

Sonja: Sonja was Ove's wife. Ove is silent and grim but Sonja is happy and expressive. We have absolutely no idea why she liked him other than the way he sat silently while she talked. They met on a train. Sonja got pregnant with Ove's child, so they must have had sex at least once, but then there was a bus accident and Sonja got an unintended abortion.  Then Sonja got cancer and died, making Ove want to kill himself.

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Themes

People who are autistic can express themselves with deeds. Ove is emotionally constipated; he has trouble expressing himself with words. So when he feels positively towards someone, he will offer to do nice things for them, like fix their radiators or their fences or their bicycles.

Vulnerable people can be easily manipulated into becoming your slave. Ove is very emotionally vulnerable here because of the death of his wife, Sonja. Parvaneh, his neighbor, sees that and repeatedly takes advantage of him, pressing him to do errands for him and making him his unpaid servant. When other neighbors see that, they start taking advantage of him as well.

Being other people's slave is an empty and meaningless life. While Ove tries to find purpose being the neighborhood slave, shoveling snow off peoples' lawns, fixing bicycles, building fences and walls for people, fixing their radiators, his life is really still quite meaningless, which explains why he dies only a few years later; he dies of complete and utter boredom.

Anal sex can cause problems with your Muslim Dad. Mirsad is forced to move out because his presumably Muslim Dad (Mirsad is a Muslim name), does not approve of his anal sex activities. People are killed in Islamic countries because of it.

Lonely guys need a girlfriend. Ove was depressed but never tried to get another girlfriend or use a local prostitute. Perhaps if he had he wouldn't have been so depressed.

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Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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