Updated: Oct 19, 2020
You know the saying, "Be kind. You never know what someone is going through"? Anxious People by Fredrik Backman is the epitome of that saying.
Backman is a master storyteller. He has a way with creating these characters that feel three dimensional and touches on heavy themes with a slightness of hand, rather than smacking you over the head with it. Subtlety is Backman's strength and I am always here for it.
An open house and a botched bank robbery turns into a hostage situation with eight anxious strangers, who may, or may not, be hostages in the situation. The suspected bank robber seems to disappear out of thin air and the police are interviewing the hostages, trying to figure out what happened and where the suspect is hiding. Every character brings something to the table, from the random strangers who end up hostages, the bank robber who was put in a compromising position, the police officers who are a father son team, and the hostage negotiator who strangely never seems to show up to the crime scene.
I am a die hard Backman fan, so of course I enjoyed Anxious People. I love how he is able to touch on so many topics with a slew of characters that are relatable. The reigning theme of Anxious People is that we are all struggling with our own internal battles. Even someone who is composed and seems to have it all together, has their own things they are struggling with. Each character brought their own set of issues and this bizarre "hostage" situation ended up being a cathartic experience for all of them. We live in a day and age where everyone's lives are plastered all over social media. And not their "real" lives, the parts of their lives they choose to share. Not many people share the hard, ugly parts of their life, so all we see is this happy, go lucky façade that you can't help but compare yourself to. Anxious People breaks down the façade and tells us the story of how we all have a struggle in common and connecting at that level can be lifechanging.
This book has no shortage of characters: Jim and Jack, the father/son law enforcement duo, Ro and Julia, wives who are expecting their first child and searching for the perfect apartment to settle into, Anna-Lena and Roger, empty nesters who use house hunting and flipping apartments as a way to stay connected, Estelle, a sweet elderly woman who misses her husband, Zara, a complicated business woman who is a cynical as they come, the real estate agent who is as bizarre as they come, the bank teller who is "held up" and experiences a pretty traumatic situation, but uses sarcasm to avoid dealing with it, and Zara's therapist, who wants to connect with Zara and make a difference in her life.
It is easier than it seems to keep track of all of these characters and their internal battles. That is what I love about Backman. He is able to throw a ton of literary characters at you, but in a way the reader can keep up with. I really enjoyed each of these strange, anxious people and how real and relatable they all were.
I have been asked where I stand on Anxious People and the other Backman books I have read. Beartown still ranks at the top for me, but this one is a close second with A Man Called Ove. Take that for what it's worth. This one is worth the read and one of my favorite books I have read this month.
"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree."
"...we don't want our children to pursue their own dreams or walk in our footsteps. We want to walk in their footsteps while they pursue our dreams."
“The truth of course is that if people really were as happy as they look on the Internet, they wouldn’t spend so much damn time on the Internet, because no one who’s having a really good day spends half of it taking pictures of themselves. Anyone can nurture a myth about their life if they have enough manure, so if the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, that’s probably because it’s full of shit.”
Other Books I Recommend by this Author:
Beartown, Us Against You (Beartown #2), & A Man Called Ove
Content Warning: anxiety, depression, suicide, death of a loved one, infidelity