3 Sentence Summary
A Man Called Ove is a heartwarming and humorous novel that follows the life of Ove, a grumpy but lovable old man. Fredrik Backman skillfully explores themes of loss, friendship, and the power of community. Ove’s journey will make you laugh, cry, and reflect on the importance of human connection.
Summary Read Time: Less than 6 minutes
Actual Book Length: 337
First Published in: 2012
Below is the detailed yet quick A Man Called Ove summary:
The story follows a dual-timeline narrative of Ove. Ove is a 59-year-old curmudgeon residing in Sweden, experiencing a series of highs and lows from his childhood to the present. After losing his mother at a young age, Ove immerses himself in work at the railway with his father. He develops a deep-seated respect for honesty and hard work. When a significant misunderstanding at work leads to the loss of his job, Ove, now an orphan with a house to his name, decides to refurbish it. Yet, in a twist of fate, the house catches fire under mysterious circumstances.
In the wake of the fire, Ove rents a room in town and stands up to a troublesome coworker, Tom. He retrieves a stolen keepsake in the process. Unexpectedly, he meets Sonja on a train, initiating a blossoming romance that transforms his life. Sonja encourages Ove to pursue an engineering course and in time, the two move into a row house. That coincides with their neighbours Rune and Anita. The two couples form a tight-knit community, sharing tools and experiences as they prepare for the arrival of their babies.
A bus tour to Spain brings joy and devastation to Ove and Sonja’s lives as a tragic accident leads to Sonja’s miscarriage and paralyzation. Yet, Ove’s unwavering spirit sees him rebuilding their house to accommodate Sonja’s needs. As years pass, the once friendly relationship between Ove and Rune sours into a feud. It further got strained by Rune’s purchase of a BMW and his subsequent Alzheimer’s diagnosis. As Ove navigates these trials, the story takes a heart-wrenching turn. Sonja’s cancer diagnosis and her eventual passing leaves Ove to grapple with the loss of his beloved wife.
Ove, now six months into grieving his beloved Sonja, faces forced retirement. The prospect of a hollow, lonely future drives him to contemplate suicide. However, his new neighbors— the heavily pregnant Parvaneh and Patrick— disrupt his plans with their chaotic arrival, punctuated by the mishandling of their moving trailer. Despite his irritation, Ove assists them and is gifted dinner by their children in return. A series of interruptions, ranging from a wrongly parked bicycle to a visit from Anita with distressing news about Rune, consistently obstruct his suicide attempts.
Starting his day with the neighborhood inspection, Ove has a close shave with a recklessly driven Škoda. A sense of foreboding surrounds Patrick’s precarious ladder setup, and Ove’s worry for the cat intensifies. Another suicide attempt using car exhaust is foiled by Parvaneh’s accident involving the ladder. In spite of his surly demeanor, Ove steps up to take Parvaneh and her children to the hospital, abruptly opening his quiet life to the rambunctious outside world.
At the hospital, Ove’s irascible persona is on full display as he quarrels with the parking attendant and a clown. Parvaneh’s children react differently to Ove: while Nasanin finds him fascinating, the seven-year-old is less enthused. A return trip home and an ensuing request from Parvaneh to repair her radiator sees Ove slowly, albeit reluctantly, stepping into the shoes of an unexpected Samaritan.
One day, en route to the train station, Ove overlooks a peculiar cat-shaped hole in a snowdrift. At the station, he rescues a businessman who collapses onto the tracks. A fleeting eye contact with the conductor dissuades him from his suicidal intentions.
Back home, a near-miss incident with the recurring man in the white shirt finally brings his attention to the frozen feline in the snowdrift. A warm hearth, courtesy of Parvaneh and plump neighbor Jimmy, offers the cat respite, unraveling further insight into Sonja’s life in a wheelchair. Ove finds himself on another hospital trip following Jimmy’s allergic reaction and, with Parvaneh’s persuasion, becomes a reluctant cat owner.
A journalist, Lena, eager for a scoop on Ove’s heroic train rescue, prods for an interview. However, she is left temporarily confined in Ove’s garage. Parvaneh mediates the situation, ensuring Lena keeps in touch. Ove once more steps up to his chauffeur role, retrieving Parvaneh, Patrick, and Jimmy from the hospital. A pit stop at McDonald’s and a heartwarming riotously colored drawing from Nasanin punctuate their journey home. Parvaneh then expresses her desire to learn driving, a request Ove acquiesces to.
Ove’s relationship with the cat takes another turn as he decides to resort to Sonja’s painkillers for his next suicide attempt. The cat’s distress cry leads Ove to thwart Blond Weed’s abusive intentions. A thwarted attempt at setting a booby trap for Blond Weed’s dog, a nostalgic encounter with Adrian – a former student of Sonja’s, and the initiation of Parvaneh’s driving lessons ensues.
Despite a shaky start with Parvaneh’s aversion to manual transmission and a slight collision, Ove steps up, giving Parvaneh both a dressing-down and a much-needed pep talk.
A subsequent visit to Adrian’s café acquaints Ove formally with Mirsad, Adrian’s boss. Despite an uncomfortable conversation around Mirsad’s sexuality, Ove extends his assistance to fix Adrian’s bike and even brings his special filter coffee to the café. Interrupted from his rifle-assisted suicide attempt by Parvaneh, Ove spirals into action seeing the man in the white shirt at Rune’s house.
After blocking the man’s Škoda with Patrick’s trailer, he learns of Rune’s impending removal by the council, leading to a breakdown. The night doesn’t end with his intended suicide as Mirsad and Adrian appear at his doorstep, seeking refuge for Mirsad. Ove obliges, imagining Sonja’s approval.
Ove and his neighbors strategize to prevent Rune’s forced move, which ends successfully with the man in the white shirt retreating. An interview with Lena, a dinner with Patrick and Parvaneh, and a heart-to-heart talk with Amel about accepting Mirsad’s orientation mark the following days.
In the course of events, Ove purchases an iPad for the seven-year-old’s birthday, which is cut short when Ove suffers a heart attack confronting burglars at a neighbor’s house. Post-hospitalization, with Parvaneh’s assistance, Ove finally packs away Sonja’s belongings. Parvaneh welcomes a baby boy soon after.
Fast forward a few years, Mirsad and Jimmy tie the knot and adopt a girl, and life proceeds at its usual pace until Ove’s death. A substantial part of Ove’s fortune, divided among Parvaneh’s children and Jimmy’s daughter, results in a charity for orphaned children. Over 300 people commemorate Ove’s life at his funeral. Later, a potential couple to carry forward Ove’s legacy is introduced to his house. Its a pregnant woman and a Saab-driving man, signifying the cycle of life continuing in Ove’s world.