Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Man Called Ove Discussion Guide

Book:        A Man Called Ove
Author:    Fredrik Backman
Edition:    Softcover

Moving and humorous, poignant and soothing, well worth reflecting upon and also a palette cleanser, loved every aspect of this book. I highly recommend the audiobook as the reader's timbre and pace animate each and every character, most especially Ove.

Additional Resources

Consider watching the movie A Man Called Ove as a group for your discussion and compare your views of the movie and the book. 

Major Characters

Ove: Recently widowed, Saab-driving, curmudgeonly protagonist 
Sonja: Ove’s wife who has recently died
Anders: 40 year-old Audi-driving neighbor who is on steering group of Resident’s Association
Parvaneh: New neighbor has 2 daughters and is pregnant
Patrick, aka The Lanky One: Parvaneh’s husband
Jimmy: Ove’s 25-year old next-door neighbor
Rune: Ove’s contemporary who lives two doors down, suffering from dementia 
Anita: Rune’s wife
Lena: journalist 
Adrian: young man who wants to fix up a bike for his girlfriend
Mirsad: son of cafe owner

Discussion Topics

Here are a small selection of discussion topics for A Man Called Ove that may help your book group launch a discussion relevant to your groups’ interests and other books you may have discussed.  Consider reading one of Backman’s other books to discuss consistencies and differences.


Throughout the novel, Backman has wonderful descriptions of laughter. Here are three:
When Parvaneh meets Ove and corrects him that she is Persian not Arbian, Ove refers to Farsi as Farsical and Parvaneh starts laughing. 
“Her laughter catches him off guard. As if it’s carbonated and someone has poured it too fast and it’s bubbling over in all directions…It’s an untidy, mischievous laugh that refuses to go along with rules and prescriptions.” page 60
After Sonja’s accident when Ove tells the nurse in no uncertain terms that he will be taking Sonja home to live and then throws a shoe out the door, Ove hears Sonja laugh for the first time since the accident, 
“She laughed and laughed and laughed until the vowels were rolling across the walls and floors, as if they meant to do away with the laws of time and space.” page 203
When the doctor tells Parvaneh that the issue is that Ove’s heart is too big,
“…she starts to laugh. First it’s more like a cough, then as if she’s holding back a sneeze, and before long it’s a long, sustained, raucous bout of giggling.” page 328 
Sometimes laughter breaks tension or sadness. Sometimes it’s shared across strangers. Sometimes it comes from a shared history. How are these three moments of laughter distinct and how is that distinction captured in the words chosen? 

Where and why does laughter enter your life? When does laughter uplift? When does it soothe? How would you describe laughter?


Death is ever present in this novel both through Ove’s grief over Sonja’s death as well as his efforts to take his own life. In addition, the loss of a loved one is present through rejection, as Mirsad faces, or  through aging and memory as Anita faces. 
“You miss the strangest things when you lose someone. Little things. Smiles. The way she turned over in her sleep. Even repainting a room for her.” page 56
Where have you lost a relationship whether through death or rejection or memory? How do those loses compare? 
“Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it’s often one of the greatest motivations for living. Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more fury. Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis. Others become so preoccupied with it that they go into the waiting room long before it has announced its arrival.” page 325
And from an interview with Fredrik Backman, Backman says,

“Well, fear of dying is crucial in all of my writing, it seems, and I really don't know why. I just end up at that question over and over: How do you live a life?”
How do you view death? Does it linger in the periphery? Is it out of mind? Are you in the waiting room long before it has announced its arrival?


Sonja’s death is overwhelming for Ove in particular because of the great love they shared. Yet to many of their friends, they couldn’t see why these two were together.
“People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had.” page 45
Do you know couples who are happily in love and seem to be opposites in every way? How does love change over time, both loves that lessen and those that deepen? 

Who We Are

Ove reflects on the day that he returned a lost wallet he found on the floor as a boy working. 
“Had Ove been the sort of man who contemplated how one became the sort of man one was, he might have said that this was the day he learned that right has to be right.” page 44
Are there moments that made you the person you are? Think about moments that changed how you think or act at work or at home or in public. Consider who you were with, what was happening, how old you were. What about those times were impactful?


“‘All people want to live dignified lives; dignity just means something different to different people,’ Sonja had said.”  Page 274
What is dignity to you?

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