Detailed plot synopsis reviews of A Man Called Ove
While in the process of not-dying, Ove has a flashback to when he worked on the trains. He saw a coworker named Tom steal something, but Tom accused Ove of doing it. Ove's sense of rigid morality prevents him from telling his boss that Tom was the thief, so the boss fires Ove. However, the boss rehires Ove for a different job because he knows Ove is not guilty. This whole episode is intended to show us that Ove is a man of high moral character for refusing to tell on Tom...but Ove just comes across as stupid, even if he weren't in the middle of trying to kill himself.
Ove, refusing to rat on Tom, tells his boss, "Men are what they are because of what they do. Not what they say."Click here to see the rest of this review
How brave! How noble!
As a result Ove got a presumably lower paying job as a night cleaner on a long distance train. But he was ultimately happy about it because that was where he met Sonja.
Ove repeatedly judged people by the cars they drove. For example, he hated Rune for a while because he drove a Volvo. Ove seemed to think that the kind of car a person bought told you about their personality. We are supposed to see this as another example of Ove's overly judgmental personality.
After the rope snaps and Ove's first suicide attempt is cut short, Ove decides not to try again immediately. No explanation.
Ove's house burns down. Ove bought insurance but the person he bought it from was not a real insurance agent. Ove trusted the man and had paid for the policy in cash. Ove was swindled. This makes zero sense since Ove is about the most suspicious, untrustworthy person you'd ever meet. In other words, the methodical, careful, pessimistic Ove allowing himself to be swindled in this way is totally out of character.
Ove goes for suicide attempt #2. He attempts to poison himself with his car's exhaust. Parvaneh interrupts him, however, demanding she drive him to the hospital because her cuckold husband has been injured. We get the sense that Parvaneh figures out that Ove is trying to kill himself when she interrupts suicide attempt #2, and so we see Parvaneh trying to keep Ove busy for the rest of the book so he won't keep trying to kill himself.
Ove doesn't initially want to drive Parvaneh to the hospital but is persuaded. We see the very beginning of Ove developing empathy for someone else.
The "council", the local government, demands Ove sell his land and burned down house to them. Even though Ove hates the council, he agrees to do it. This again is totally out of character, and totally inexplicable.
While working at the train company, Tom, the thieving coworker who almost got Ove fired, steals Ove's watch. This is too much for Ove and Ove smacks him and gets his watch back.
Parvaneh , seeing that Ove may try to kill himself again, asks him for help fixing her radiators. She says her cuckold husband can't fix them himself. Ove agrees to help. Parvaneh is watering his empathy, and like a small, withered plant, it is starting to grow.
Ove flashbacks to the time when he first met Sonja. At first he lied to her, saying he was a soldier. Then when he confessed that he had lied and only told her this so he could see her, she wasn't angry. Sonja even seemed happy, saying this was the most he had ever said to her. Sonja knew that Ove was emotionally constipated so even making this admission was a big deal for him. Why Sonja would be attracted to a semi-autistic train cleaner, however, remains a complete mystery.
We learn that the reason Ove is trying to kill himself is because he misses Sonja.
A man faints on the train tracks. Ove rescues him just a train is coming. But then Ove gets the idea that this would be a great time (from his perspective) to try and kill himself and so Ove attempts to commit suicide for a third time. After pulling the man off the tracks, he stays on it so the train can kill him.
But the train stops in time. The train operator and all witnesses seem oblivious to the fact that Ove just tried to kill himself. Not very credible.
They treat Ove like a hero for saving the fainting guy but Ove wants no acknowledgement of what he's done. Ove acts like a saint who feels he isn't good enough to be thanked.
We flashback to the scene where Ove meets Sonja's dad. It seems Mr. Sonja is emotionally constipated too, unable to carry on a conversation like a normal human being. The two bond however when they talk about cars. That's how Ove can bond with people, by talking about ordinary things, because he sure can't talk about feelings.