The Life of Bon: Bon's Book Club February: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Bon's Book Club February: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Alright ladies and gents, it's book club time!  Just a real quick reminder how Bon's Book Club works- we all read a book and then on the last Thursday of the month we gather here to talk about it.  There will be some questions that you can answer or not answer- whatever floats your boat.  Each month I will have a co-host helping me move this discussion along.  You can read our thoughts on the book and then add your two cents in the comments or link up your post that you did on your own blog.  

January:  These is my Words by Nancy E. Turner

February: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

March:  Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
April:  Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
May:  Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
June:  Why Not Me?  by Mindy Kaling
July:  Room by Emma Donoghue
August:  The Martian by Andy Weir
September: So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
October:  Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
November: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

+ Is Ove likeable enough to you?  Likeable enough to carry an entire book?
+ Who was your favorite character and why?
+ What was the purpose of the constantly talked about cat and saab?  What point was Backman trying to make?
+ What did you think of Ove and Sonja's relationship?  How do you think it affected him?
+ In the story, Ove mentiones that when people don't share sorrow, it can drive them apart.  This happens to him and his friend, Rune.  Do you think this is a true or accurate statement?

This month my co-host is Sierra and I will give you her take on the book first.

I am so excited to join Bon in being her co-host this month! 

One thing that is so interesting to me about book clubs is that I came away from them with such a different perspective than I did before going in. This novel caused such an interesting discussion because some members of the group did not love the cheesiness that accompanied this story. Call me a romantic (okay, I am one!) but I loved it. I loved the heartfelt, compelling story that showed that even a horrible man like Ove, all have a good side, even if it's in unconventional ways. I think that Ove's character is incredibly unlikeable. In a way, almost painful. He is, frankly, horrible. He is a bitter old man (although the book said that he was 59? Since when is that considered old? That was a bit confusing) who clearly has a lot of negative emotion to work through. For me, I wanted to learn about his past. I know that Ove was stuck in his ways because of experiences that we went through. So I wanted to keep reading so that I could understand WHY he was acting that way. I don't think that Ove could have  carried the story alone. I think that he needed some serious help from his hilarious neighbors, if that makes sense. With that, my favorite character in the story is Paravaneh. I loved her. So much. I loved that she was feisty and annoying, but you loved her in spite of that. I loved that she didn't take Ove's crap. She added some pizzazz and realistic nature to the story. 

The way that Ove talks about his and Sonja's relationship will tear at any female's heartstrings. It is clear that he felt that she married way below her level. In his mind, Sonja was perfect because she had passed on. And although that was a little annoying, for me, it was endearing. When someone passes on, you tend to just remember the good things. I hope that my husband thinks of our memories and me the way that Ove does with his spouse. 

In the story, Ove mentions that when you don't share sorrow, it can drive you apart. That is what happened with him and his neighbor Rhune. I think that this is SO true. Often times when someone is going through a hard time, they need someone to step up and in a sense say "I'm here for you. I've been through this." These types of trials either make or break a relationship. Unfortunately, for Rhune and Ove, the death of a loved one, tore them apart. I have seen this happen in my own life and the lives of so many others, so I could relate to this part of the story immensely. 

Oh, the cat. I love the cat. The cat symbolized, in my opinion, Sonja. Ove talks about her love for cats and when he meets cat, he feels a sense of duty to take care of it...for Sonja's sake. I actually thought it was funny because he IS a cat. He is fickle and particular--cats only like you if they choose to like you, and that's exactly what Ove does. I felt that they were companions and that he could subconsciously, relate to this cat. The saab. The stupid Saab. So annoying. I wanted the author to shut up about it! But the Saab symbolizes his unwillingness to change. Also, the fact that he put his heart and soul into that car and it was something that he prided himself in. 

All in all, this book was not perfect. It had many flaws. It wasn't written amazingly well (was it translated from Swedish, by the way? We were wondering that in book club? I know he is a Swedish author...), One's grumpiness, for me, got quite annoying (Like...we get are pissed off at the world!) and the idealism that correlates with this story can be unrealistic. But, honestly, I loved it. I found myself crying towards the last few pages because it just made me want to be a better person. As cheesy as that sounds. I loved seeing the beauty of change in mankind and all the wonderful things that can happen when you have a "village that loves you."


So I think I must have been the person who Sierra was referring to who didn't like the cheesy, romantic story.  Don't get me wrong!  I love a good story that tugs on the old heart strings.  But I did have a few problems with A Man Called Ove mainly in that everything wrapped up a little too perfectly for me at the end.  It was like we just wrapped all our problems up and put beautiful little bows on them and placed them underneath the Christmas tree and isn't life just perfect?  One book club member said she appreciated that because so little is that way now- in real life and in our media- so it was refreshing to read something that tied up perfectly even if, admittedly, it wasn't realistic.  I can see that.  I guess I had to suspend my sense of reality a little bit to "buy" the end of the book.

For me I also struggled with the book because there was so little plot.  I get that it's a character driven story, but I would have liked something to happen.  I was much more interested in the back story, and found that to be my driving force in reading the book.  I really enjoyed reading about Ove and Sonja's relationship (although it did bother me a little that someone as perfect as Sonja would marry someone as grumpy and mean as Ove) and I really enjoyed the backstory of Ove and his dad.  Those were the parts of the story that propelled me forward- the present story line was pretty boring for me.

I think the main take away from the book and the thing that I liked about it was Danica mentioned that in  real life it's hard to give people like Ove much of a chance because they're so grumpy and mean and we're just like, "Ugh!  Old grumpy people.  Just learn to be nice!"  I think the most interesting conversation stemmed from that- that "being nice" is different for different people and that we don't have to ask people to "be nice" on our terms.  For example, Ove is a very thoughtful, considerate person in a lot of ways (he lets the boy who has been kicked out of his house live with him, he takes care of the stray cat, drives Paravenah and Patrick to the hospital) but he isn't nice in the conventional, obvious way.  He allows himself to be a good person in the way that he sees it, not in the way that the world values "good people" or "kindness".

Alright, I can't wait to read your thoughts!  Sierra and I will be responding to all comments today and we're excited to get a good discussion going.  Or if you wrote your own post, you can link your thoughts!  The world is your oyster!

Loved this book club meet up!  If you are local you have to come!  

March's book is Quiet:  The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking.  I am so excited to read this one!!!  Online book club will be Thursday, March 31 and the IRL meet up will be Tuesday, March 29.  See you there!

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