A Man Called Ove Summary

A Man Called Ove is a 2012 novel by Fredrik Backman about Ove, a bitter, bereaved, aging Swedish man who learns to embrace life again.

  • Ove, retired and lonely after the death of his wife, is committed to ending his life, but his attempts are repeatedly foiled by the intrusions of others who require his assistance.
  • Ove helps his new neighbors, saves a stranger at a train station, rescues a freezing cat, fixes a boy’s bicycle, and performs other acts of service.
  • Ove inadvertently becomes an integral and beloved member of his community.

Summary

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Last Updated on February 4, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1385

Set in present-day Sweden, A Man Called Ove focuses on the life of the novel’s fifty-nine-year-old protagonist. Ove lives in the row house where he and his wife have resided for forty years, and he owns a Saab, the only car he considers worth driving. As the book begins, Ove...

(The entire section contains 1385 words.)

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Set in present-day Sweden, A Man Called Ove focuses on the life of the novel’s fifty-nine-year-old protagonist. Ove lives in the row house where he and his wife have resided for forty years, and he owns a Saab, the only car he considers worth driving. As the book begins, Ove tries to buy a computer. Frustrated by the salesman’s computer terminology, he storms out of the store. 

Early one morning, Ove inspects the neighborhood, as usual, to make certain the Residents’ Association’s rules are being followed. Leaving the house, he shoos away a stray cat. Ove broods about having been forced to retire from his job. He sees Anders, a neighbor, jogging by and thinks of Blond Weed, Anders’s hateful girlfriend. 

Ove prepares to install a hook in the living room ceiling, intending to hang himself. His plans are delayed by helping the Pregnant Foreign Woman and her husband, the Lanky One, who back a trailer into Ove’s house while moving in across the street. Their two daughters, ages three and seven, bring Ove dinner prepared by their Iranian mother. Ove eats it and goes to bed.

Ove visits his wife’s grave and talks to her. Returning home, he encounters two boys at the neighborhood bike shed. He assumes they are stealing the bike in their possession, but one of them insists he is repairing it for his girlfriend. Ove stops Blond Weed from throwing rocks at the stray cat. 

Installing the hook once again, he is interrupted by the Pregnant Foreign Woman and the Lanky One, who introduce themselves as Parvaneh and Patrick and ask to borrow a ladder. Another neighbor, Anita, appears and asks Ove to drain her radiators; Rune, her husband, can’t do it. Once best friends, Ove and Rune haven’t spoken in many years. Anita says that Rune has Alzheimer’s and that Social Services authorities are going to place him in a home against her will. When Anita mentions Ove’s wife, Sonja, he erupts and throws everyone out. He finishes the hook, attaches a rope, and hangs himself. The rope breaks. Picking himself up, Ove goes to drain Anita’s radiators. 

Ove’s personal history is recounted in chapters of exposition. Orphaned at sixteen with his father’s death, Ove took a job at the railway. Working nights cleaning railway cars, he worked days restoring the house he had inherited. The house burned to the ground, and the insurance policy Ove had paid for didn’t exist; the salesman had been a con artist.

Ove decides to die by asphyxiation with his car running inside his garage, but Parvaneh interrupts him. Patrick has fallen off the ladder and been taken away in an ambulance. Ove drives her and her daughters to the hospital. Realizing what Ove had been doing in the garage, Parvaneh asks him to look at her radiator to make sure the children stay warm at night. Ove agrees and decides he can die the next day.

After his home burned, Ove sold the lot, rented a room in town, and continued to work nights at the railway. Early one morning, he saw Sonja sitting alone on the train and sat down beside her. Ove earned a job at the housing office, where he worked for more than thirty years. 

Ove intends to die by throwing himself in front of a train. His plan goes awry at the station when he saves someone else’s life instead. Returning home, he sees a cat-shaped hole in a snow drift with a cat at the bottom, no doubt the stray cat.

Sonja took Ove to meet her father and Ernest, her beloved farm cat. Ove repaired Sonja’s father’s truck, earning his approval. When Sonja’s father died, Ove took her back to the farm. Ernest was hit by a car and died. Sonja wept for her father and for Ernest and told Ove she was pregnant. 

Parvaneh pulls the cat out of the snow and forces Ove to take it inside. Jimmy, an overweight young man who lives next door, helps thaw out the cat by warming it with his body heat. The cat revives, but Jimmy suffers an allergic reaction. Ove and Parvaneh drive Jimmy to the hospital, bringing the cat along. 

The cat lives with Ove, accompanying him on his morning inspections and going with him to visit Sonja’s grave. A reporter named Lena comes to Ove’s house and asks for an interview regarding his heroism at the train station. Ove locks her in his garage. Parvaneh promises to get rid of Lena if Ove will drive her and the girls to pick up Patrick and Jimmy at the hospital. He agrees.

When Ove and Sonja were vacationing in Spain, their bus crashed, and Sonja lost the baby. Back home and confined to a wheelchair, Sonja accepted a teaching position. 

Home again, Ove drops off his passengers and pulls into the garage; he lowers the door and leaves the car running. Then he looks at the cat beside him and turns off the engine.

While Ove considers killing himself with pills, Blond Weed’s dog attacks the cat in Ove’s yard. Ove rescues the cat and decides to electrocute the dog. At Anita and Rune’s house, he rummages through their garage to find what he needs to do the job. When Ove realizes he can’t actually kill the dog, he and the cat go home.

Adrian, one of the boys from the bike shed, delivers Ove’s mail. A former student of Sonja’s, Adrian tells Ove how much she helped him. Learning how much Adrian loves his girlfriend, Ove agrees to fix her bicycle.

Ove and Rune’s friendship ended when the Residents’ Association sided with Rune in opposing one of Ove’s ideas. Ousted from leadership, Ove blamed Rune and remained bitter about it for decades. 

Ove, Parvaneh, and the cat go to the café where Adrian works. They meet Mirsad, Adrian’s friend from the bike shed, and Amel, Mirsad’s father, who owns the café. Mirsad lets Ove know that he is gay; Adrian asks Ove not to mention it to Amel. Ove fixes the bicycle. 

When Sonja was diagnosed with cancer, Ove raged about the cruelty and injustice visited upon her once again. Sonja comforted him and continued teaching until she could no longer carry on. Dozens of her students visited her shortly before she died.

Ove decides to shoot himself with a rifle but is interrupted by the Social Services agents parking near Anita and Rune’s house. Ove boxes them in with Patrick’s trailer. Late that night, holding the rifle, Ove hears noises in the yard. He throws open the door and points the rifle at who he assumes are burglars, but he realizes the figures are Adrian and Mirsad instead. Mirsad came out to his father, and Amel sent him away. Mirsad stays with Ove.

Anita receives official notice that Rune will be taken away. Ove, Jimmy, Mirsad, Adrian, and Anders (free of Blond Weed) meet at Parvaneh and Patrick’s house to devise a plan. When the Social Services agent and three male nurses come to take Rune, Ove, Parvaneh, Patrick, Jimmy, Anders, Adrian, Mirsad, and Lena intervene. Lena has uncovered damaging information about the agent. The agent and the nurses leave immediately. 

Ove visits Amel at the café; not long after, Amel and Mirsad are reunited. Ove gives Lena an interview; her story about him appears on the front page of the newspaper. Parvaneh, Patrick, Jimmy, Adrian, and Mirsad visit Sonja’s grave with Ove and the cat. The seven-year-old invites Ove to her birthday party. On his way home from her party, Ove challenges burglars breaking into a house and has a heart attack. Parvaneh is inconsolable, but Ove survives. The night she takes him home, her baby, a boy, is born. 

Lena moves in with Anders. Jimmy and Mirsad marry and adopt a little girl. Ove dies peacefully in his bed, the cat sleeping beside him. More than three hundred people attend his funeral. Parvaneh shows a young married couple through Ove’s house, knowing they will buy it. The wife is pregnant, and the husband drives a Saab.

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