Gradually, Mr. Backman fills the reader in on Ove’s back story, on Ove’s family (only a mother and father), but more importantly on the love of Ove’s life, his wife Sonja.
Ove meets Sonja and is so smitten with her that he rides the train the wrong way every day for an hour so he can talk to her. This is a man who is committed! He eventually manages to win Sonja’s heart, despite the misgivings of her friends, because Ove doesn’t say very much and is nothing more (the reader is led to believe) then a cleaner on the night train. Who would marry a guy like that? Sonja would because she sees more than everyone else can see. They are blind, but she is not. Gradually, Mr. Backman opens up Ove’s real character and the reader discovers what Sonja discovers. Ove is something more than a curmudgeon.
Not that Ove likes cats, mind you. He does not.
“Is it dead?” Parvaneh [the Foreign Woman] asks in terror as she rushes forward as quickly as her pregnant belly will allow and stands there staring down into the hole.”
“He [Ove] doesn’t understand where this woman keeps appearing from all the time. Can’t a man calmly and quietly stand over a cat-shaped hole in a snowdrift in his own garden anymore?”
“Maybe he’s sleeping,” he offers, peering into the hole. Before adding: “Otherwise he’ll come out when it thaws.”
Parvaneh digs the cat out of the snowdrift and rushes it into, guess where…Ove’s house! Where Ove by default ends up with the cat.
“When they get back to the house, Ove reluctantly feeds the wretched animal, and once it’s finished, announces that they’ve got errands to run. He may have been temporarily press-ganged into cohabiting with this little creature, but he’ll be damned if he’s going to leave a wild animal on its own in his house.”
And this is how the wretched cat comes to live with Ove.