Once upon a time, when Amy Tan was in New York City, she found herself caught up in a torrential downpour. She took refuge in a private library at the American Society for Psychical Research where her intuition brought her to the story of Bibi and her tale, “Saving Fish from Drowning” began to unfurl. This book is in every sense of the word, a trip gone wrong. It begins with Bibi’s death, the woman who was supposed to lead a group into China and down into Burma. Her death was the first omen that should have persuaded the group not to go, but they went anyway. The cursed group goes missing in Burma and the search is on to save them, even though no one knows exactly what happened to them. Bibi serves as the narrator of the story as Tan takes you from the most beautiful parts of China and into Burma. Tan opens your eyes to new cultures and to how dangerous political climates can be for the people around you.
Hello, everyone. It’s time to discuss the first official book club selection for 2017: A Man Called Ove. Even if you haven’t finished reading the book, feel free to come back here and post your thoughts either here or on the Facebook page after you’re done.
Let’s start off…
The Book Club Questions
- What did you think of the book?
- Who was your favorite character in the book and why?
- With the story going back and forth between present day and the past, do you think the progression of the story was easy to read?
- Ove is a unique character. Did you find his character relatable? If so, how? Does he remind you of someone? Does he remind you of yourself?
- Ove’s attempts at taking his own life fails every time. Do you find the failures to be purely coincidental or maybe something more otherworldly happening?
- Ove went from wanting to die to wanting to live for today and fight for the people around him. What were some of those significant markers that occurred that made him realize he wasn’t alone?
- The film “A Man Called Ove” was nominated for Best International Film at the Academy Awards this year. Did you get to see it? How did you like it? Was Ove how you imagined him to be? Did the film do the book justice?
- What was your favorite part of the book?
- I really enjoyed this book. It was very comical with incredible characters.
- I loved Parvaneh. She was always right in his face trying to make sure that Ove did right for himself and for others. She was the right relationship he needed to come into his life. She was the daughter he never had. I also loved the cat. That cat was something else. When he walked in and knocked down the pills, it was like he was saying, “I know what you’re trying to do, so stop it!” I also loved that he went wherever Ove went. Who takes their cat everywhere they go? It wasn’t even Ove’s cat!
- I liked the progression of the story. In my other book club, there were some people that did not like the way it went back and forth. For me, I liked that it would leave a little detail that made you question what happened and then the next chapter would explain what happened in the past. It’s a lot like having a conversation with someone. You are trying to explain how X happened, but then realize you need to fill in the historical context. I liked learning about Ove’s history as the author tried to explain how he got to be the way he is now.
- Ove is a little on the weird side, but I saw a little of myself in him. How people don’t know how to change a tire mindboggles me. That was the first lesson I ever had when I started driving…you have to know how to change the tire on a car. You have to know how to parallel park. In Ove’s tirade, you need to know how to back up a car with a trailer hooked up behind it. Life for Ove is very hands on and mechanical. He expresses his emotions and who he is as a human being by doing things for others. He shows he cares by repairing fences, fixing cars, teaching people how to drive, etc. He is not one to be emotional or affectionate. He shows he cares by doing things. The man has a big heart, even if he acts like he doesn’t care. You know he does. I have a friend that says she hates people, but I find her to be the most compassionate person when it comes to people. She’s always out helping the homeless, her family, her friends, etc. She acts like she doesn’t care, but she really does.
- Ove trying to kill himself made me laugh every single time he failed at it. I really loved that part of the story. The fact the fail happened over and over and over again makes it look like there was something otherworldly trying to stop him from taking his life. One person from my book club thought that his wife was looking out for him by sending all of these people into his life so that he knew he was not alone and that the world still needed him. I can definitely see that.
- Parvaneh was a huge part of letting him know he wasn’t alone. Just her arrival with her husband and kids was a huge marker. The fact that her husband doesn’t know how to do anything shows that they need Ove to help them with ‘the simple stuff.’ Parvaneh needing to learn how to drive shows that Ove is still needed (like teaching your own daughter how to drive for the first time). The two girls look up to him as a grandfather. They become the grandkids he never had. The two teenagers made Ove remember the compassion of his wife and the things she did for the children. Jimmy didn’t have anyone to look up to except Sonja, Ove, Rune and Anita. Jimmy didn’t want to be forgotten so he tried to patch things up in a subtle way between all parties. Ove finding out from Jimmy that they had kept Rune’s condition quiet helped pave the way towards two friends rekindling their friendship.
- I saw the film and enjoyed it immensely. They did not fit in the entire story and made a few subtle changes, but they weren’t so bad as to step completely away from the book. The book though was better. Ove in the film was exactly how I imagined him to be.
- My favorite part of the book was when Ove hit Parvaneh in the nose. That’s when I fell in love with her character.
Next Book Club Selection
Our next book club selection is “The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto” by Mitch Albom. We’ll begin discussion of the book on May 1st. I hope you’ll join us.
Disclosure: I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work.
The PW Book Club is going to be a little different this year. I’ll be sharing Amazon Kindle First’s selections and sharing which book I chose, but separately from the book club. The 2017 book club itself is going to be based on five selections of books you can purchase now.
Those books are:
Here are the dates for discussion. If you want to sign up for the group, just add your email address to the PW Book Club on the top right of the page.
March 1: A Man Called Ove
July 1: A Dog’s Purpose
September 15: Leaving Time
November 15: The Best of Everything
I’ll have discussion questions posted up for those who want to use the questions for their own book clubs. I hope you’ll join us. Details will follow.
Disclosure: I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work.
[DISCLAIMER: What you are about to read may weird you out a little, because this is something different. The people that know me or are close to me can testify to the fact that I am different. As my Muslim friends say, I am not weird or crazy. I am special in a unique way.
If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that I am doing a Russell Crowe movie binge. I have not revealed why. I keep promising to reveal why on the site and today is your lucky day!
As you read through this, bear in mind that in the Old Testament there are stories of people that spoke of dreams where God has spoken to them to reveal a prophecy or to deliver special messages. The Bible speaks of people speaking in tongues or seeing angels…even talking to God. If you are Muslim, Jew or Christian, you believe these stories.
To say that it does not continue to exist today and it only existed thousands of years ago, you do not know God. God never stopped talking to his people. Today, there are many people out there that are listening to God and speaking with him.
My understanding of God and the universe is a little more elevated than conventional religions. For Muslims and Christians who have heard me speak about God, they have always noticed how I reference their beliefs, but explain the way that things should be. It is more elevated in understanding, and it always rings inside their heart as being God’s truth.
As one friend explained to me, there are times I speak about God and the universe in such a way that he does not understand. Even though he does not understand it, what I say rings in his heart as being the truth. Some time will pass and he will be going about his business when something will happen to him and then he will recount the words I said to him. That is when he says to himself, “That is what she was talking about!”
He told me that I’m on a much higher plane of understanding than he is. He is just trying to get there.
This higher plane of understanding…that is what I am going to be discussing today. It is much easier for people to hear my voice when I describe these things, because oftentimes, seeing is believing. To hear someone’s voice as they tell you this story is much more powerful than just reading their story. It’s their voice that strikes the chord within your heart that what this person is saying is true. Even if you don’t understand it, you will eventually.]
The Crowe Binge is Really About the Novel
On this site, I have been talking a lot about the novel I am currently working on. The book is about a dream I had last month that was so prolific that I had to share it. I saw the dream from beginning to end. The story was just so incredible, I had to bring it to life and share the story with the world.
Who was the lead character in the dream? Russell Crowe.
Before you go thinking that I’m having some prolific and awesome dreams about Russell Crowe, note that I said ‘lead character.’ That means that he’s playing the role of the actual person and it’s not really about Russell Crowe. In other words, the dream plays out like a movie and Crowe is just an actor in the dreamlike movie playing the role of an actual person.
For some odd reason, when God is trying to explain something to me, he uses Russell Crowe in the story to explain it. For the last three years, if Crowe appears in the dream, that means it is a message to explain something going on in my life or something that will happen in my life (aka prophetic dreams).
These dreams play out from beginning to end. I see and feel what every character is thinking and feeling. I see all of the fate lines as they interact and intersect with each person in the dream, and I understand the meaning of it all in the grander scheme of things (i.e. from God’s point of view).
When God speaks, he is speaking a million things all at once. That is the way the universe operates. There is not just one single thing happening in the universe at that very moment, there are many things happening across the universe instantaneously. So when God is explaining one situation, there are many things involved beyond just the story. There is the greater message, which is God’s message, and that message is oftentimes lost in the story. It is his message that is the most important part of the story because it explains everything. It truly explains the story of your life.
A lot of times Crowe’s appearance is a mixed bag. He’s playing the role of everyone the story is about. He’s me. He’s the guy in question. He’s the good guy, the bad guy, the clueless guy and the guy that gets his heart trampled on and can’t figure out why it happened.
In this story though, he’s playing the role of the guy this story is really about (an actual person that exists). I decided to call the book “The Death Between Us.” If you’ve followed along with what’s happened to me over these last 3 years, you’ll understand why I chose that title. There are even some elements that go back to when I was at the Vatican in 2012 and what transpired after that. Death himself plays a prominent role in this book and it is not in a way you could ever imagine.
The Vatican – July 2012
Let me take you back to a day in my life – July 2012. I am in Rome, Italy and I’ve decided to go to St. Peter’s Basilica. I leave the hotel, pick up a few slices of pizza, jump on the subway and head to St. Peter’s Basilica.
I’m tired, because I know my cancer has returned, but I refuse to go to the doctors because I am not ready to go through another year of testing. It’s the testing that’s the worst part.
I get through security in Vatican City and decide to sit down at the obelisk and share my lunch with the birds. After lunch, I head into St. Peter’s Basilica, wearing a long black dress and a red Valentino scarf wrapped around my head to hide my hair as a matter of respect to the church. [I’m not even Christian.]
I start looking around, photographing the church, reading the walls. The marble floors are really weighing down on my body, sucking the energy out of me. I notice there’s a prayer room, so I pretend like I’m going to go in and pray just so I can sit down in one of the pews for a while.
This is where I confess that I can do something that most people can’t do. I can push thoughts into people’s head. When you meditate as much as I do, it awakens parts of your mind and allows you to use parts of your brain that most people do not use. There are a lot of people who meditate regularly that can do this. These are sort of ‘powers’ that come when you have a deep understanding and relationship with God. There are many nuns that I know that have this same ability.
Also, another ‘power’ I have is the ability to see with my mind’s eye things that spiritually cannot be seen with the naked eye. It’s the same kind of ‘power’ where when I’m interviewing someone and they are saying one thing, I hear something else. It is that something else that scares them, because if I print it, it could be bad. As I’ve learned from Ilya Kovalchuk, I am 100% correct in what I see in their mind and that scares them (i.e. hockey players).
At any rate, I’m not Catholic and I’m definitely not Christian, so I decided to eavesdrop on what the nuns were praying about. I pushed myself into the eldest nun’s mind and saw her praying for the souls of man that they would find their way to God. So I pushed the answer into her mind on how that should be accomplished. Another nun was visiting from another country. She was praying for funds so that her church would not close. I looked around me in this room filled with opulence and just shook my head. The Vatican has vast sources of money. They are rich beyond belief and they cannot share the wealth with their flock and churches? Come on now.
That’s when I heard the giggle. I immediately looked up and saw two angels sitting up near the top of the ceiling. They were listening to the prayers and laughing at the people below, having a grand time. That’s when they noticed me. One of them said, “I can’t believe she’s here. Of all places!” The one angel stopped the other and said, “Don’t you know she can hear you?” They left out the window, with one looking back at me as he left…like he was getting ready to run and tell on me for stepping foot in what I believe to be…well, I don’t want to make you mad so I won’t share what I truly think of places of worship.
I stayed in the prayer room a little longer listening to people’s prayers, pushing thoughts into their mind to help them find the answer to their prayers. I even bestowed blessings upon people.
When I felt like my body could handle touring the Vatican again, I got up. I walked out of the prayer room, passed the nun at the admittance area, and just felt this weight on my body, pulling me down. I leaned up against one of the columns and sat down. It was unreal how difficult of a time my body was having. It felt like life was being sucked right out of me.
A couple of tourists took it upon themselves to sit down next to me against the column. A guard came running up and told them to get up. They couldn’t sit there. He looked at me and said, “You, you are okay. You can sit there. Just rest.”
As I was sitting there, I saw an Asian priest hurriedly walking through the Basilica. I was astonished. I’d never seen an Asian priest before. So I decided to get up and follow him. I wanted to see how far I could get into the Vatican before I was stopped.
I followed him to the back of the Basilica and then stopped dead in my tracks.
Imagine standing in front of Death’s Door (this really exists at St. Peter’s Basilica) and realizing what is happening in that very moment that transcends human understanding. You are standing in Death’s throne room and he knows you are there.
When I realized what was going on, I started to bolt out of St. Peter’s. Then I turned back around, because I wasn’t sure. I took out my camera and started photographing Death’s Door. I needed proof that what I was seeing was what I was really seeing. [I’m telling you right now, not a single photograph came out. Not a single one.]
Then I saw him form next to Death’s Door. That was when I bolted for the front door.
Death himself followed me all the way to the front door, telling me a million things all at once (like God does). I looked around me as I made my way to the front door. I came to understand the fallacy of the Christian religion. He told me that they had no idea what they were doing by worshiping the dead. It gave him power and that was wrong. They had no idea how wrong they were. It was not the way things were supposed to be. It was disrespectful to God to give Death so much power by worshiping and praying to the dead.
I hadn’t noticed before while I was touring the Basilica, but there were dead popes all over the place and people were bowing down and praying to their corpses!
When I got to the front door, he told me I had to clean out my soul before it was too late. I took one step out the front door and I saw the guy that had hurt me worse than anyone had ever hurt me in my lifetime standing there on the other side of the gate. Of all the fucking places to run into him, I run into him at the Vatican in Italy.
I turned around and went back into the Basilica, thinking ‘What the Fuck?’ I had a choice. I could either run again or face my fears. I remembered when I was a kid, how I used to get up on the high dive, scared to death. I would stand at the edge and say to myself, just get it over with and jump. So I jumped.
I decided, if God put this guy here at the Vatican at the exact same time as me, it was time to talk to him. So I went back outside, ready to talk to him. He was standing there on the other side of the gates, looking right at me. A woman called from behind him and he turned his head. Then like seeing a haze lift, I saw that it wasn’t him. It wasn’t him at all.
I was so confused, I looked back towards the entrance to the Basilica and Death was standing there. He said, “Now you understand.”
What he was talking about was that I needed to forgive that guy for hurting me worse than anyone has ever hurt me and forgive myself for hurting him by walking away. Death wasn’t there to scare me. He was there to help me. He told me there are certain things you do not want to carry with you when you die. He had dug down deep into the bottom of my soul for that one.
He didn’t pick the guy that killed himself. He didn’t pick the soured relationship between me and my family. He chose him. I had to forgive him and myself for what happened. This was something I should not take with me in my soul when I die. It was a story that should never be repeated in any lifetime.
I was so exhausted from what had transpired, I sat down on the steps outside of the Basilica. Once again, the tourists took it upon themselves to take liberty and sit next to me. The guards came running over telling everyone to get up and leave…EXCEPT me. The guard told me I was fine. I could sit in the shade if I wanted to. There were 3 different guards that relayed that exact same message every single time tourists sat down next to me.
This is why I love the Catholics. They’re so nice.
I Speak in Tongues
The next day, I headed to Sorrento. I was sitting in a cafe when this old gypsy woman approached me asking for donations. I gave her 20 euros. She thanked me and then did a double take. She crossed herself a few times and immediately headed out of the cafe. She kept looking back at me a little scared.
She came back 15 minutes later with all of these charms and pictures of saints. She told me in Italian, “Death is following you.” I responded, “I know.”
She gave me the charms to help ward him off and explained what I should do to help keep Death at bay. I know college level first year Italian. My professor claimed that I was such a native speaker she thought I was lying when I said I didn’t know Italian prior to taking her class…and she was an Italian. [My Russian professor said the same thing about my Russian.] How I was able to communicate with this woman in Italian for a good 20 minutes, I have no idea. My Muslim friends tell me that every now and again I speak in Arabic to them. I don’t know Arabic except for a few choice words.
A friend of mine even witnessed me talking to a Palestinian woman in Arabic on the subway one time. When the lady left me, I blessed her and my friend and I went on our way. She said, “I had no idea you knew Arabic.” I replied, “I don’t.” She thought I was messing with her. I said, “Honestly, I don’t.”
She looked at me strange and said, “But I just witnessed you talking to her in Arabic.” I shrugged my shoulders and said, “She was telling me about her husband and how he had died in a bomb attack. They were sleeping when it hit the house and instantly killed him. She’s on her way to her in-laws in Queens.”
She told me that the conversation was not in English (like I thought it was). It was completely in Arabic.[I believe this would be the equivalent to a modern day ‘speaking in tongues.’ To me, I hear what the soul is saying. The soul speaks a universal language. It is the same language no matter what language you speak. I may think I’m speaking in English to someone, but I’m really talking to their soul, so somehow it translates into the correct language. Which means that if you are speaking in a foreign language around me, chances are high I understand everything you are saying and can respond in your language.]
So back to the Italian gypsy lady. She told me Death was following me. I knew he was because I could feel him. St. Peter’s Basilica is Death’s Throne Room. That feeling like the life was being sucked right out of me…that was my spiritual side feeling Death himself nearby.
He followed me all over Italy that next week and then continued to follow me around until October 22, 2013. During that time, I came to terms with Death. I learned he was not to be feared. He was a friend. He was an uncle that cared about what was happening to me.
I knew the cancer had returned. I could feel it back then at the Vatican, but I refused to go and see the doctor because in 2008-2009 I spent the entire year going through medical testing, looking for the cancer. The signs were there. We just had to wait and see where it would appear. I also had surgery in 2008 and there were complications post-op. The doctors were trying to figure out what happened. The cancer was awakened thanks to that surgery.
After a year of medical testing, I couldn’t do it anymore. I was just too tired to keep doing it with no results. We were playing the waiting game. We were waiting to see where the cancer would show up.
In 2013, I returned to hockey writing and I was mad as hell. In my meditation, I yelled at God for that broken heart associated with giving up on a dream. He kept telling me I needed to see a doctor. There was something wrong. It wasn’t something I could fix. Only a doctor could fix it. He told me that during every single meditation.
By June, he had to scream it in my head during a meditation, so I booked an appointment to see my doctor. I told her exactly what the meditation was saying. I said to her in the exam room, “God told me in my meditation that there is something wrong with me. It is not something I can fix. Only a doctor can fix it.” She put what I said into the computer system, probably thinking me delusional and to circle back on that later. She told me to just go workout, start a diet, blah blah blah. Everything was okay.
Then the blood tests came back. The result: they found the tumor.
With each doctor I went to at Roosevelt after that, they all asked me again and again, “How did you know?” It’s like they had to hear me say it in order for them to believe it. Science isn’t meant to disprove that God does not exist…it is also meant to prove that God does exist.
During the final stages of my testing, the first doctor I saw during my nuclear testing asked me how I knew. I repeated the exact same words. “God said there is something wrong with me. It is not something I can fix. Only a doctor can fix it.” That doctor did not just want to hear me say it once. She needed to hear me say it again, just to make sure I was not crazy.
With each nuclear test I took that day, each doctor asked me how I knew. I repeated the same thing. In one of the longest part of the tests, the doctor ran out of the room to get the chief doctor to look at my tests. They were also talking about what I had said. I could hear one of them say, “There is no way she could have known about this.”
The technician sat there in the nuclear science lab with me looking at the screen, he turned to me and asked me (because he had heard the other doctors talking about it), “How did you know? There are no signs for this type of cancer. How did you know?”
I repeated the exact same words to him. I explained that the symptoms I was having could have been easily diagnosed as something simple like plantar’s fasciitis, or how I needed to workout more, etc. The blood test was what told us the tumor was there.
The technician sat there looking at me in disbelief. He was an Indian man. He told me that in his culture, they believe this stuff, but this was the first time in his life that he had ever witnessed someone say something like this and it ended up being completely accurate. There was something wrong with me. It was not something I could fix, only a doctor could.
How many men of science do you think changed their mind about God’s existence after meeting me that day?
Death Follows Me
I came to realize that what happened at St. Peter’s Basilica in front of Death’s Door had an even bigger meaning. I wasn’t just figuratively standing before Death’s Door, I was literally at death’s door and he had taken an interest in me that day. He followed me everywhere I went and I could feel him.
Over those two months of testing, the doctors told me to prepare for the worst. So I did. I got my affairs in order and on October 22, 2013, I walked into Roosevelt Hospital hoping that I’d live through this. I had said a prayer that morning when I arose. I asked God to let me live. If he were to let me live, my entire existence would be to live by his will. I would do what I was supposed to do (which is to complete the novels).
As I lie in the bed in the prep room, the team of doctors came in to talk to me to explain everything to me all the way down to explaining how they were filling my body with Gatorade (no joke). At one point, they left. I lay there waiting when I felt Death standing at the edge of my bed. He was happy and told me that he wasn’t there for me that day. He was there for someone else down the hall. “Surprise, you’re going to live!”
I have to say, the weight was lifted off of my shoulders. After the surgery, when I realized I was dreaming, I did a whole, “Fuck. I’m alive.” I heard a beeping noise and a nurse yelling at me to breathe. She told me to just concentrate on breathing. Deep breaths in and out.
I tried to come out of my haze and focus on my breathing. I saw Death standing there smiling saying, “See, I told you that you would live.” He then went on to explain to me that I was on borrowed time.
The Borrowed Time & the Storyline
That ‘borrowed time’ became prevalent in this dream I had last month. According to the dream, Death had taken pity on me and did something he wasn’t supposed to do. He gave me time…time to do what I was supposed to do…to make the dreams come true.
This is why the book is called “The Death Between Us.” This is truly about Death’s vested interest in giving me that borrowed time and what it all means.
Crowe’s role in the dream was not Death. He played the guy who loses the woman he loves. Death is the evil nemesis that steals from him the woman he loves. Death becomes the lover and the one that wipes her memories from her, so she would not only forget who she was, but forget who this man was and how she felt about him. Death is the one that causes the ultimate heart break.
So this whole Russell Crowe binge is about making sure that I continuously see the main character in my mind. Seeing the actor from the dream pushes me to keep on writing, because I am constantly thinking about the story.
One thing I would like is for all of my books to turn into movies. The books in my head are based on those prolific dreams I’ve had. Oddly enough, Crowe was in every single one of those dreams I’m writing about. Like I said, God likes to use Crowe as my spirit guide in my dreams. I’m not complaining. He’s nice to look at. Just saying.
I think perhaps the ultimate reason why Crowe plays out in every story is because if and when these books turn into films, perhaps Crowe will take an interest and be in every single one of these films. I mean, how many authors can say that when they wrote their books, Crowe was the main person in mind to play the lead male character? The character looks like him (something to keep in mind if you ever read the novels).
As for this particular story, I am not going to reveal who the actual person is that this story is really about. That is for him to choose to pick up the book and read it, if and when he is ready. This book is about his heart break. This is my way of explaining to him why his heart breaking was out of my control and there was nothing I could do to stop it from happening. What happened on October 22, 2013 made me forget who he was. When the memories returned, those feelings I had for him never returned.
It is hard watching someone’s heart break in front of you because he knows you no longer love him. This book is being written for him to understand that there was something much greater going on in the universe and it was not within his control. This is about learning to let her go.
I bet never in a million years did you ever expect me to say that the reason for the Russell Crowe binge was because of this. Now you know. It’s about the novel.