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Review: Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Title: Anxious People

Author: Fredrik Backman

Year Published: 2020

Category: Adult fiction
Pages: 352
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map) Sweden

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): 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 their own marriage. There’s a wealthy bank director who has been too busy 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 motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.

Rich with Fredrik Backman’s “pitch-perfect dialogue and an unparalleled understanding of human nature” (Shelf Awareness), 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 times.

Review: I really enjoyed Backman's Beartown and this new book is getting such good press that I was looking forward to it. I'll confess that it took me quite a while to settle into it, but by the time I read the final page, I realized I enjoyed it.

This is a tale whose truth and connections between the characters and storylines are slowly revealed as the police investigate the hostage situation through interviews with the hostages. It's a bit complicated, but when it all comes together, it's rather brilliant.

I had a difficult time getting into this for two reasons: short bursts of reading (never a good idea) and the flip nature of the dialogue and writing. It felt too sarcastic for me at first, which is ironic because I am a sarcastic person. However, it turns out that doesn't work super well for me in books. About half way through I felt like the flip attitude calmed down a bit and I had a longer spell to read so it all seemed to work better for me in the second half.

Backman manages to take a motley group of people (hostages) and show us their quirks, foibles, and humanity, which seems to be his forté. We hear the inner workings of their brain, how they interact with others, and how it impacts the larger picture/plot. I also like that there is hope and kindness in the end, with each character opening themselves up to others, helping, and being, if not a good person, at least lovable.

Have you read this novel? What did you think?

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • A to Z (title)--"A"
  • Literary Escapes--Sweden
  • Popsugar--a book everyone seems to have read except me

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