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Anxious People

Review

Anxious People

It began as a really bad idea. I mean, really bad. It was meant to be a bank robbery, but it didn’t quite work out like that, so it turned into a hostage situation. And it ended up being a hostage situation with the worst hostages ever. The would-be bank robber got trapped inside an apartment during a showing. The people viewing the apartment included a very old lady, a young married couple, an old married couple, and a woman who couldn’t possibly be interested in buying such a place. Plus, someone was locked inside the bathroom.

The police dispatched to the scene never encountered a situation like this in their small Swedish town, which was out a ways from Stockholm. But they didn’t want the Stockholmers to dispatch their own negotiators and steal the show, so they did what they could to convince the bank robber to release the hostages. First they needed to establish communication. Only, there was no phone reception in the apartment, so how could they speak with the bank robber? The two officers argued over what to do.

"ANXIOUS PEOPLE is as excellent as any Fredrik Backman story you will find. It’s character-driven, and these characters are able to worm their way into your heart, even the ones you start out not liking."

Meanwhile, the bank robber didn’t really want to bother the people who were viewing the apartment. The whole morning had gone terribly wrong. The pistol wasn’t even real. Then the hostages, being the worst hostages ever, took a genuine interest in why the bank robber wanted to rob a bank in the first place. Actually, the bank robber had a very good reason, despite the idea being a very bad one. As they wondered together how to find a reasonable solution to their predicament, they unwittingly learned more than they wanted to know about each other. And they began to care.

The young married couple argued a lot, but that could have been because one of them was pregnant and both of them worried about being a good parent. After all, who doesn’t? The older married couple seemed to be cautious around each other, but that was probably because Anna-Lena’s career had taken off and Roger’s hadn’t. The old lady, Estelle --- whose husband, Knut, was parking the car --- kept trying to interest the other hostages in food or drink, like a good hostess would. The woman, Zara, obviously had no interest in buying the apartment. Why was she even there? And speaking of buying and selling the apartment, the real estate agent that day --- House Tricks, “How’s Tricks?” --- was simply an idiot. This whole story is about idiots.

Eventually, the failed bank robber released the hostages (after they all ordered and ate pizza), who then filed into the police station for interviews. Thereafter, the police searched the apartment and found the pistol and quite a lot of blood, but no bank robber. As I said, the hostages were the worst hostages ever, so the police could make neither heads nor tails of their statements. What began as a very bad idea had a very good ending, mostly because a group of idiots cared. They cared enough to listen to each other and be good humans, even if they were the worst hostages ever.

ANXIOUS PEOPLE is as excellent as any Fredrik Backman story you will find. It’s character-driven, and these characters are able to worm their way into your heart, even the ones you start out not liking. This book is simply too good to miss. So don’t.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on September 11, 2020

Anxious People
by Fredrik Backman

  • Publication Date: September 8, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • ISBN-10: 1501160834
  • ISBN-13: 9781501160837