Words That Sustain Me: A Man Called Ove Discussion Questions

A Man Called Ove is a beloved book club selection: a heartwarming tale about a grumpy old man that is a thoughtful exploration of the profound impact one life has on many 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).

Charlie enjoyed thinking on the discussion questions in the back of his book, and wanted to share his thoughts with our book club community. Please comment with your own thoughts – we want to hear from you!

1. As readers, we get to know Ove slowly, with his past only being revealed piece by piece. What surprised you about Ove’s past? Why do you think the author revealed Ove’s past the way he did?

I think what surprised me the most about Ove was his wanting to end his own life and how that was tied the loss of his wife Sonia. In the beginning of the book these parts of the story are revealed and it was very surprising to me. I think I thought that some “old” guy as grouchy as Ove seemed to be would be too mean to die! Much less be planning on taking his own life. So, that was very surprising to me. I think the author chose to reveal Ove piece by piece as a way to gift the reader with pieces of the story that were not anticipated. I appreciate a book that surprises me with it’s ending much more than one than one that doesn’t. In revealing Ove piece by piece the author makes him more complex an ultimately more likable.

2. 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?

I think the only way Ove could have been broken out of his shell is by someone like Parveneh. That is a person who wouldn’t take a no as an answer. One who wouldn’t be scared away by Ove’s cranky old man routine. I think there were times in the story when Ove did not know how to respond to Parveneh’s in your face attitude, and thereby she got her way which was always wanting to help Ove.

3. On page 113, 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 deals with varying ideas of masculinity?

I do not really agree with the author’s thought that men makes a final decision as to what kind of man they will be. Personally, I was taught to communicate in violence as a child. Most young boys learn this in the southern part of the United States. The whole you’re going to respect me or I’ll make you respect me through violence way of living. I lived forty years thinking and acting like a wolf and during the past two years I’ve been remembering how to think and acting like a sheep, one of Jesus’ flock. So, that choice does not happen once in life. It can be made as as often as you see the need for change and proceed to become a different, better person.

4. On page 246, 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 think it is critical to allow loved ones to be with you while experiencing grief and sorrow. We need to allow someone that’s close to us to accompany he when we go through this period. For me, there was nothing anyone could do to make my situation better. But it meant everything to know someone who cared about me was willing to let their heart break with mine. That’s the mark of a true friend. I also think if we try to hide something like sorrow we’re breaking the trust another might have in us because we’re unwilling to be vulnerable with them.

5. 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?

I think that when we first learn about Ove’s childhood, he was a person that was stuck in absolutes. Sonja Saw Ove as he truly was and as what he could be. And I think Ove understood this knowing she saw things in him that he could not comprehend. She made him see and feel things he’d never experience if she was not in his life. Ove was also much like Sonja’s father. I think their love story was my favorite part of the book it was so special, so beautiful!