Book Review: Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

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Anxious People

Publish Date: September 8, 2020

One single really bad idea. That’s all it takes.” – Anxious People

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Viewing an apartment normally doesn’t turn into a life-or-death situation, but this particular open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes everyone in the apartment hostage. As the pressure mounts, the eight strangers slowly begin opening up to one another and reveal long-hidden truths.

First is Zara, a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else until tragedy changed her life. Now, she’s obsessed with visiting open houses to see how ordinary people live—and, perhaps, to set an old wrong to right. Then there’s Roger and Anna-Lena, an Ikea-addicted retired couple who are on a never-ending hunt for fixer-uppers to hide the fact that they don’t know how to fix their own failing marriage. Julia and Ro are a young lesbian couple and soon-to-be parents who are nervous about their chances for a successful life together since they can’t agree on anything. And there’s Estelle, an eighty-year-old woman who has lived long enough to be unimpressed by a masked bank robber waving a gun in her face. And despite the story she tells them all, Estelle hasn’t really come to the apartment to view it for her daughter, and her husband really isn’t outside parking the car.

As police surround the premises and television channels broadcast the hostage situation live, the tension mounts and even deeper secrets are slowly revealed. Before long, the robber must decide which is the more terrifying prospect: going out to face the police, or staying in the apartment with this group of impossible people.

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Fredrik Backman is one of my favorite authors and I’ll pretty much read anything that he writes. He has the unique talent of reflecting the human spirit in his writings, and really connecting with his readers through his books. He makes us feel as if we know each and every one of his characters.

“Anxious People” is a thought-provoking, heartbreaking but amusing book that leaves you pondering about your own relationships and life. This story is about “A bank robbery. A hostage drama. This story is about a lot of things, but mostly about idiots.” It showcases Mr. Backman’s writing and depth of talent in a completely different way than his other books.

This story features a father-son police officer duo, a bank robber, a real estate agent, and a cast of eclectic characters in a hostage situation that supports the core theme of the human spirit. Each character is humanized, and you will relate to every single one of them. The story is told from a third person narrative and a series of police interviews recalling the hostage situation, so you also get a first person perspective sprinkled into the story.

The story especially humanizes the bank robber, who we normally think of as a vile, despicable character because they are criminals and taking people hostage. However, Backman makes this bank robber actually likeable due to the poor robber’s home situation and internal struggles. It made me feel that they didn’t have a choice to rob a bank and I felt empathy for them.

My favorite quotes:

“Their relationship is complicated, as is often the case between police officers of different generations.”

“Parents are defined by their mistakes.”

“Life can go all sorts of ways, but it will probably go wrong.”

“The worst thing a divorce does to a person isn’t that it makes all the time you devoted to the relationship feel wasted, but that it steals all the plans you had for the future.”

“You only lend money to people who really don’t need to borrow money.”

“You need psychology if you think you’re a dolphin. You need psychiatry if you’ve killed all the dolphins.”

“It’s harder than you might think to take people hostage when they’re idiots.”

“When you’re a child you long to be an adult and decide everything for yourself, but when you’re an adult you realize that’s the worst part of it.”

This book is about parenting, marriage, relationships, home ownership, struggles, and the human spirit. It’s an entertaining, funny, reflective book that I enjoyed reading. Much of Backman’s writing is thoughtful prose, and I found myself nodding in agreement many times. Like all of his other books, this one is unforgettable. It’s a must-read.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars 5 Stars

Note: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley exchange for an honest review.

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