Title: Anxious People
Author: Fredrik Backman
Release Date: September 8th 2020
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery, Humor
Targeted Age Range: Adult
Content Warnings: suicide, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempt, death, addiction, grief
Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix up their own marriage. There’s a wealthy banker who has been too busy making money to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything, from where they want to live to how they met in the first place. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.
Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises, these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in a motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.
Humorous, compassionate, and wise, Anxious People is an ingeniously constructed story about the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope—the things that save us, even in the most anxious of times.
“You end up marrying the one you don’t understand. Then you spend the rest of your life trying.”
It has taken a bit for me to actually find the words to write this review, and that is solely because this book left a profound mark on me. I knew going into this book, that it wasn’t going to be an easy read. I’d heard of how sad it gets or how complicated the storyline becomes, but what I didn’t realize was how significant the other aspects to this book are. You aren’t just reading a typical story, with a typical plot, about typical characters who wound up in a hostage situation. This takes place in one day, but it feels as if you’ve known these characters for years.
Each character is so important to the storyline. The way that Backman tells their story makes the readers feel as if the characters are a precious friend or family member. The way that Backman weaves in and out from present time, to police station interviews, and to each character’s past is brilliant. The story flows so smoothly as Backman takes the readers from one event to another, and it definitely doesn’t hurt that he is an incredible writer. His writing is hilarious and real, but most importantly his words seem to jump out of the book and gives a warm hug of understanding to the readers. His quotes are extremely relatable as I found myself tabbing memorable quotes page after page.
“We never got past the first flush of infatuation.”
I thought that the setting was also super fun to read about. At times, I forgot that this was all happening across the ocean in Sweden because the societal struggles are something that totally apply to America as well. The themes of poverty, gender inequity, and the corruptness of class structure are aspects in society that people deal with on a daily basis, and I’m glad that Backman showed how society has made it difficult for citizens to thrive. It brings up the important conversation within the economy and the middle class, and how the world only cares about you if you have the money to give to the system. In this story specifically, it shows how financial trials can lead anyone to acts of desperation. However, most importantly, this story emphasizes how empathy and compassion towards a person can save them even in the darkest of times.
I listened to the audiobook of this story and I found that it enhanced my experience a lot. The narrator, Marin Ireland, did an outstanding job and truly encompassed the characters in a way that my mind never could have. To be honest, I don’t think I would have had as good of a time reading this book on my own mainly because it was a bit dense. I’m normally used to reading fast-paced, plot-heavy books, but Anxious People was character-driven all the way. Not to say that is a bad thing, but if you’re not used to that (like I was) it could make it a bit difficult to get into. I’m glad that I did choose to listen to it though, because having the narrator assign different voices and dialect to the characters made it feel even more personal when hearing their stories.
“We plant an apple tree today, even if we know the world is going to be destroyed tomorrow. We save those we can.”
Anxious People is a book that I know I will hold near and dear to my heart for a long while. It is one of those books that leave you lying in bed at night, staring at the ceiling trying to conceptualize what you just read. The characters are fictional, but I can’t help but ask myself where they are today because I’ve come to care about them so deeply. I think when an author can impact a reader in that way, it shows how profound their story truly is. I, for one, cannot wait to read more books by Fredrik Backman. I’ve acquired two of his other novels: A Man Called Ove and Beartown and I am very excited to get to them both!
Thank you for reading this review! If you’ve read Anxious People let me know what your thoughts on it were
If you haven’t read it, is it a book that you think you’d want to pick up?
Talk to you soon! 😊