A Man Called Ove

Sonja is Ove's late wife, who dies six months before the start of the novel. She was very beautiful and loved color, chaos, and the humanities. She also loved talking, and Ove loved listening to her talk. She grew up with her father and a massive cat, Ernest, and met Ove when she moved to town to study to be a teacher. Right after she and Ove got married and moved into their row house, they went to Spain on a bus tour. There, they were involved in a bus accident that paralyzed Sonja from the waist down and caused her to miscarry her pregnancy. Rather than spend the rest of her life grieving, Sonja threw herself into teaching troubled students to read Shakespeare. Sonja worked to make life as bright and lively as possible, though Ove was constantly bewildered by her refusal to adhere to his carefully laid travel plans or routines and insisted she didn't understand his desire to live according to principles. After she dies of cancer, Ove visits her grave weekly and leaves pink flowers on her headstone. Ove draws on the memory of Sonja to encourage him to do the right thing—since he fears that she'll be upset with him if he shows up in the afterlife having left something done incorrectly on earth.

Sonja Quotes in A Man Called Ove

The A Man Called Ove quotes below are all either spoken by Sonja or refer to Sonja. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Memory and Grief Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Washington Square Press edition of A Man Called Ove published in 2015.
Chapter 2 Quotes

Every morning for the almost four decades they had lived in this house, Ove had put on the coffee percolator, using exactly the same amount of coffee as on any other morning, and then drank a cup with his wife.

Related Characters: Ove, Sonja
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 4 Quotes

But Ove isn't bloody arguing. He just thinks right is right. Is that such an unreasonable attitude to life?

Related Characters: Ove, Sonja
Related Symbols: Color (Pink)
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 11 Quotes

It wasn't supposed to be like this. You work and pay off the mortgage and pay taxes and do what you should. You marry. For better or for worse until death do us part, wasn't that what they agreed? Ove remembers quite clearly that it was. And she wasn't supposed to be the first to die. Wasn't it bloody well understood that it was his death they were talking about? Well, wasn't it?

Related Characters: Ove, Sonja
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 14 Quotes

And now she stood outside the station with his flowers pressed happily to her breast, in that red cardigan of hers, making the rest of the world look as if it were made in grayscale.

Related Characters: Ove, Sonja
Related Symbols: Color (Pink)
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:
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She wanted to get married, so Ove proposed. She wanted children, which was fine with him, said Ove. And their understanding was that children should live in row housing developments among other children.

Related Characters: Ove, Sonja
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 136
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 17 Quotes

As if the kitchen had been built for a child. Parvaneh stares at them the way people always do when they see it for the first time. Ove has got used to it. He rebuilt the kitchen himself after the accident. The council refused to help, of course.

Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 23 Quotes

But everywhere, sooner or later, he was stopped by men in white shirts with strict, smug expressions on their faces. And one couldn't fight them. Not only did they have the state on their side, they were the state.

Related Characters: Ove, Sonja
Related Symbols: White Shirts
Page Number: 204
Explanation and Analysis:
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Every human being needs to know what she's fighting for. That was what they said. And she fought for what was good. For the children she never had. And Ove fought for her.

Related Characters: Ove, Sonja
Page Number: 205
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 28 Quotes

After the accident Ove bought a Saab 95 so he'd have space for Sonja's wheelchair. That same year Rune bought a Volvo 245 to have space for a stroller. Three years later Sonja got a more modern wheelchair and Ove bought a hatchback, a Saab 900. Rune bought a Volvo 265 because Anita had started talking about having another child.

Related Characters: Ove, Sonja, Rune, Anita
Related Symbols: Cars
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Rune and Anita's lad grew up and cleared out of home as soon as he got the chance. And Rune went and bought a sporty BMW, one of those cars that only has space for two people and a handbag. Because now it was only him and Anita, as he told Sonja when they met in the parking area. "And one can't drive a Volvo all of one's life," he said with an attempt at a halfhearted smile. She could hear that he was trying to swallow his tears. And that was the moment when Ove realized that a part of Rune had given up forever.

Related Characters: Rune (speaker), Ove, Sonja
Related Symbols: Cars
Page Number: 246
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 32 Quotes

When he almost imperceptibly takes a half step backwards into the hall...he notices, from the corner of his eye, the photo of Sonja on the wall. The red dress. The bus trip to Spain when she was pregnant. He asked her so many times to take that bloody photo down, but she refused. She said it was "a memory worth as much as any other."

Page Number: 280
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 33 Quotes

He thinks about how Sonja would have taken it if she'd found out. If she'd known that her best friend had not asked for her help because Sonja had "enough problems." She would have been heartbroken.

Related Characters: Ove, Sonja, Jimmy, Rune, Anita
Page Number: 287
Explanation and Analysis:
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Sonja Character Timeline in A Man Called Ove

The timeline below shows where the character Sonja appears in A Man Called Ove. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
4. A Man Called Ove Does Not Pay a Three-Kroner Surcharge
Rules and Order Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
Principles, Fairness, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Ove gives his wife (whose name is later revealed to be Sonja) two plants, even though there was only supposed to be one. She doesn't answer anything... (full context)
Memory and Grief Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
Principles, Fairness, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Ove considers telling Sonja about the cat, which continues to stick around. Ove is wearing his navy suit, which... (full context)
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Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
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...shopping early on a weekday. The narrator says that at times like these, Ove’s wife (Sonja) starts sighing about Ove's desire to find the best parking spot. Ove insists that it's... (full context)
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Because of this, Ove now stands in front of Sonja with two plants and explains to her that he wasn't going to pay the surcharge.... (full context)
5. A Man Called Ove
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Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
Principles, Fairness, and Loyalty Theme Icon
None of Sonja's friends understood why she married Ove. They called him antisocial and bitter and complained that... (full context)
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The narrator says that Ove is a man in black and white, while Sonja was color. Before meeting her, the only thing Ove loved was math and numbers. When... (full context)
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...returned to school and worked for the railway for the next five years. He met Sonja on a train, and she was all the color he had. (full context)
6. A Man Called Ove and a Bicycle That Should Have Been Left Where Bicycles Are Left
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Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
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...says that Ove just wants to die in peace. He didn't kill himself right after Sonja died because he still had to go to work, but now that he's been forcibly... (full context)
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...enemy. Rune and his wife, Anita, moved in on the same day that Ove and Sonja did. Rune drove a Volvo then, but has since upgraded to a BMW. Ove thinks... (full context)
7. A Man Called Ove Drills A Hole For A Hook
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...about how he used to paint a room in the house every six months when Sonja threatened to pay someone else to do it. Ove carefully selects a drill bit and... (full context)
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...on Ove's floor. He asks if Ove cycles inside. Anita begins to explain something about Sonja, but Ove furiously cuts her off and tells the crowd in his yard to shut... (full context)
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...breathe. He thinks about his so-called early retirement and studies a photograph of himself and Sonja from 40 years ago, when they were on a bus tour in Spain. Ove remembers... (full context)
8. A Man Called Ove and a Pair of His Father's Old Footprints
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The narrator says that Sonja believed in destiny. Ove never outright agreed with her, but he never disagreed with her... (full context)
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Principles, Fairness, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...decent man's son for having principles. This change in job title is how Ove met Sonja as he finished his shift one morning. (full context)
9. A Man Called Ove Bleeds a Radiator
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...his BMW long after that and Ove thought he was an idiot for doing so. Sonja only rolled her eyes at Ove and called him hopeless, but Ove thought that Rune's... (full context)
11. A Man Called Ove and a Lanky One Who Can't Open a Window Without Falling Off a Ladder
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...yelling and stomping. Ove kicks one of his clogs towards the cat and thinks that Sonja would've been furious. The cat continues to not care, and strolls away. After Ove's inspection,... (full context)
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Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
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...looks over his shoulder and hopes that nothing happened to the cat, because he knows Sonja will be very upset if something happened. Ove hears an ambulance siren but pays no... (full context)
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...is settled as Ove roars indignantly about having to drive children. He thinks of what Sonja would've said if she'd been there, and then pulls the tube off his exhaust pipe... (full context)
12. A Man Who Was Ove and One Day He Had Enough
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Principles, Fairness, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Ove never understood why Sonja chose him. She liked abstract things, while Ove liked things he could hold. She always... (full context)
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Principles, Fairness, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...he promptly took apart and reassembled. His days passed slowly and peacefully until he met Sonja. (full context)
13. A Man Called Ove and a Clown Called Beppo
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Ove decides that Sonja would be very upset if he let the girls freeze. He closes up his garage,... (full context)
14. A Man Who Was Ove and a Woman On A Train
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When Ove first saw Sonja, he'd just finished his cleaning shift and was supposed to take the train home in... (full context)
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Sonja was studying to be a teacher and made an hour and a half journey each... (full context)
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...door she called after him that he should get his date flowers. He waited for Sonja at the train station for more than 15 minutes. He felt anxious that she'd never... (full context)
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Ove had eaten before the date so that Sonja could order whatever she wanted and he would still be able to pay the bill.... (full context)
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Sonja asked Ove what he wanted to do with his life, and he answered that he... (full context)
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...job at a housing office and worked there for more than 30 years. He and Sonja married and agreed to have children, so they moved into the row house near the... (full context)
15. A Man Called Ove and a Delayed Train
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...betrayed by his card. The narrator explains that Ove thinks cash is just fine, but Sonja had insisted on a prepaid debit card. After her death, the bank sent Ove a... (full context)
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...that there was less chance of someone or something ruining his plan. He thinks that Sonja had always been terrible at sticking to plans. While Ove made schedules and detailed maps,... (full context)
16. A Man Who Was Ove and a Truck In the Forest
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Before meeting Ove, Sonja had only ever truly loved three things: her father, books, and cats. She'd had suitors,... (full context)
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Ove only met Sonja's father a handful of times. Her mother died in childbirth and he never remarried. He... (full context)
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When Sonja brought Ove to meet her father for the first time, they sat silently for an... (full context)
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The narrator explains that Sonja's father always drove Scania trucks and felt quite betrayed when Scania merged with Saab, while... (full context)
17. A Man Called Ove and a Cat Annoyance in a Snowdrift
Memory and Grief Theme Icon
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...her and finds her standing still and looking overwhelmed at the sight of Ove's kitchen. Sonja's things are everywhere collecting dust, the floor is covered in wheel marks, and the counters... (full context)
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...sandwich and they remark that the cat looks much better. Jimmy offers Ove condolences for Sonja's death. Ove doesn't feel angry. He tells Parvaneh that she has to take the cat,... (full context)
18. A Man Who Was Ove and a Cat Called Ernest
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...them untrustworthy, but he and Ernest had learned to get along because Ove knew that Sonja loved Ernest unconditionally. Ove learned to fish with Sonja's father and fixed her father's roof... (full context)
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Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
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...it was an accident: everyone who had met Ernest knew that was impossible. Ove and Sonja drove Ernest to the vet, where he died. Sonja leaned against Ove in the waiting... (full context)
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Ove and Sonja buried Ernest by the lake and then drove back to the town. Sonja had arranged... (full context)
19. A Man Called Ove and a Cat That Was Broken When He Came
Memory and Grief Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
...Ove kicks the cat out of the car, gets his flowers, and they walk to Sonja's grave. Ove offers her the pink flowers and introduces the "cat annoyance." He clarifies to... (full context)
20. A Man Called Ove and an Intruder
Rules and Order Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
Principles, Fairness, and Loyalty Theme Icon
...friendship with Rune. Rune and Anita had moved in the same day that Ove and Sonja did, and Sonja and Anita became best friends immediately. Anita was also pregnant, and the... (full context)
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...their wives' raging pregnancy hormones. Anita kept putting the coffee pot in the fridge, while Sonja developed a short temper and was alternately sweating and freezing. Rune told Ove one day... (full context)
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Principles, Fairness, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Sonja played music for her belly to make the child move, and Ove worried that he... (full context)
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...men in white shirts. The white shirts haven't been in the neighborhood since he and Sonja returned from Spain after the accident. (full context)
21. A Man Who Was Ove and Countries Where They Play Foreign Music in Restaurants
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The bus tour through Spain was Sonja's idea. Ove tried to dislike the whole trip, but Sonja was so happy he couldn't... (full context)
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...old woman's face, realized what was going on, and fixed the car in ten minutes. Sonja was never able to figure out why José didn't charge them for any of their... (full context)
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For the next several days while Sonja slept during the day, Ove walked and helped people fix fences and build walls after... (full context)
22. A Man Called Ove and Someone in a Garage
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The cat keeps looking at Ove with a look that reminds Ove of Sonja. Ove tells the cat again that the council won't take Rune away for years and... (full context)
23. A Man Who Was Ove and a Bus That Never Got There
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When their stay in Spain was over, Ove carried Sonja's huge bags to the bus. He noticed that the bus driver smelled of wine, but... (full context)
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For the first week after the accident, Ove sat by Sonja's bed and didn't leave until the nurses insisted he shower and change. A doctor told... (full context)
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Days later, Sonja told Ove she wanted to start physiotherapy. Ove looked at her as though she was... (full context)
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Principles, Fairness, and Loyalty Theme Icon
Ove rebuilt the house and made it accessible for Sonja's wheelchair. She returned to teacher training the day after she left the hospital, finished in... (full context)
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Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
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...responsibility. He tried to sue the council for refusing to install an access ramp at Sonja's school. Men in white shirts kept stopping Ove, and Ove never forgave them. Finally, one... (full context)
24. A Man Called Ove and a Brat Who Draws In Color
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Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
...garage and considers trying to kill himself with the exhaust again. He thinks he misses Sonja, but he looks at the cat asleep on the passenger seat and turns the car... (full context)
25. A Man Called Ove and a Piece of Corrugated Iron
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...pills in the bathroom. The narrator explains that doctors prescribed a number of painkillers for Sonja near the end and Ove still has a lot of them. It has occurred to... (full context)
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Ove notices that he's positioned all the photographs of Sonja so that she seems to follow him through the house. When Ove picks up the... (full context)
26. A Man Called Ove and a Society Where No One Can Repair a Bicycle Anymore
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...the mail comes at any point during the day. Ove tried to make bets with Sonja after he stopped talking to Rune, but soon gave up. (full context)
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...advertising trick. The youth doesn't leave and finally asks Ove if his wife's name is Sonja. He continues, saying that he noticed Ove's last name and had a teacher with the... (full context)
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Ove and the youth stand for a minute and remember Sonja, and finally Ove asks the youth what he was doing with the bike. The youth... (full context)
27. A Man Called Ove and a Driving Lesson
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At various points during the past forty years, a neighbor would ask Sonja why Rune and Ove hated each other. Sonja usually offered an account of their vehicular... (full context)
28. A Man Who Was Ove and a Man Who Was Rune
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The narrator says that Sonja always said that Ove was unforgiving. Ove knew that Sonja was disappointed that he and... (full context)
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Not long after Ove and Sonja returned from Spain after the accident, Ove laid new paving stones, Rune built a fence,... (full context)
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There were good moments in and amongst the conflict where Sonja and Anita were able to get together with Rune and Ove for dinner. When Anita... (full context)
30. A Man Called Ove and a Society Without Him
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Ove replaces the pink flowers at Sonja's gravestone and then tells her that life has been mayhem as an apology for being... (full context)
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Sonja always said there was a time for everything. The narrator says she got her cancer... (full context)
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...is waiting in the car for Ove and asks if she could help Ove put Sonja's things away. Ove cuts her off and angrily tells her no. (full context)
31. A Man Called Ove Backs Up a Trailer. Again.
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Earlier that morning, Ove had gotten out Sonja's father’s rifle to shoot himself. He was interrupted, however, by something that made him extremely... (full context)
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...breaking and tells Ove that he knows all about Ove's fight with the council after Sonja's accident. When Ove approaches the man, the man puts his hand on Ove's chest and... (full context)
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...the white shirts always come back and win, and that life will go on without Sonja. Ove goes into his house, ignores Parvaneh banging on the door, and cries. (full context)
32. A Man Called Ove Isn't Running a Damned Hotel
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The narrator says that Sonja said that men like Ove and Rune were men caught in the wrong time. Dignity... (full context)
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...and the cat go to bed. Ove waits for the cat to fall asleep on Sonja's pillow before he gets up, goes downstairs, and gets out the rifle. He tarps the... (full context)
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...apologizes. Ove calms down and steps back into his hall. He notices a photo of Sonja from the trip to Spain, which she refused to take down. In the morning, Ove... (full context)
33. A Man Called Ove and an Inspection Tour That Is Not the Usual
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...stairs, he notices that the house smells like toast, which it hasn't smelled like since Sonja died. He accuses Mirsad of making toast and notices that Mirsad made coffee and fed... (full context)
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...Rune and now the investigation is closed. Ove refuses to accept this and says that Sonja would've heard about it if it were true. Jimmy says that Anita asked him to... (full context)
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...and Ove turns and asks Jimmy to confirm Anita's reasons for not wanting to tell Sonja. Ove thinks that Sonja would've been heartbroken to find out. He mumbles that he thought... (full context)
34. A Man Called Ove and a Boy in the House Next Door
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Ove brings a deck chair to Sonja's grave so he can take his time telling her "something she doesn't like." The narrator... (full context)
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...and her new boyfriend, a man with bad breath and a bull neck. Anita and Sonja tried to ignore the shouting they heard coming from the house, but began to notice... (full context)
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Back in the present at Sonja's grave, Ove tells Sonja he thought he'd have more time, and that she has to... (full context)
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Now, Ove tells Sonja's grave that she's going to have to wait for him because he doesn't have time... (full context)
35. A Man Called Ove and Social Incompetence
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...mornings later, Parvaneh lets herself into Ove's house and runs for his bathroom. Ove remembers Sonja saying, "hell has no fury like a pregnant woman in need" and says nothing. The... (full context)
37. A Man Called Ove and a Lot of Bastards Sticking Their Noses In
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Ove sits at Sonja's grave and apologizes, saying that people have no sense of boundaries. He replaces her flowers.... (full context)
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...Parvaneh, Patrick, Nasanin, the seven-year-old, Jimmy, Adrian, and Mirsad come up behind Ove and greet Sonja. Parvaneh lowers herself down and gives Sonja flowers from herself and more from Anita and... (full context)
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...Parvaneh and Patrick's house while Mirsad and Amel talk in Ove's kitchen. Ove thinks that Sonja would've liked it. (full context)
38. A Man Called Ove and the End of a Story
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...confirms their driving lesson for the following day and Ove goes outside. He thinks that Sonja would've loved the party. He makes his regular round of the neighborhood and notices someone... (full context)
39. A Man Called Ove
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...look back on than forward to. Some people live for other things, like grandchildren. When Sonja died, Ove stopped living. (full context)
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...fetches boxes from the attic, and that evening Parvaneh, Nasanin, and the seven-year-old help put Sonja's things away. After 9:00pm, as the girls sleep on Ove's couch, Parvaneh grips Ove's arm... (full context)
A Man Called Ove and an Epilogue
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...Anders and Ove backs their moving van in for them. The next spring, Ove shows Sonja the invitation for Mirsad and Jimmy's wedding. Ove is the best man and Amel holds... (full context)
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...ambulance comes to take Ove's body away. She tells Ove to give her love to Sonja and takes the big envelope labeled "to Parvaneh" from Ove's bedside. (full context)
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...Adrian gets the Saab and explains who to contact for Ove's money, which came from Sonja's father. Ove tells Parvaneh to give each of her children and Jimmy's daughter each a... (full context)
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...simple funeral with "no people." More than 300 people attend. They all hold candles with "Sonja's Fund" engraved on them. Parvaneh used the rest of Ove's money to start a charity... (full context)