Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
Published by Atria Books on September 8th, 2020
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
“They’re right, both of them. The witnesses aren’t telling the truth, not all of it. Not all of them.”
*ARC received by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Fredrik Backman is one of my all-time favourite authors. If you haven’t read Beartown and Us Against You, I highly recommend you start there with his work. I was even lucky enough to meet him at an event where he signed my books! I don’t think I’ll ever stop raving about his work, but especially Anxious People.
In his latest book, viewing an apartment turns into a life-or-death situation. At an open house, a failed bank robber bursts in and holds eight extremely anxious strangers as hostages. As the pressure mounts, the strangers slowly begin opening up to one another and reveal long-hidden truths.
As police surround the premises and television channels broadcast the hostage situation live, the robber must decide which is more terrifying: going out to face the police, or staying in the apartment with this group of impossible people.
This book has cemented its status as one of my favourite reads of 2020. I’m in love with Backman’s writing. It’s lyrical, whimsical, and heartwarming.
He creates this narrative that makes you feel like you’re hanging out with a very witty and observant friend who naturally has the language to describe everything you’re witnessing perfectly and humorously.
Don’t be put off by the description if you’re not a mystery person. The story is so much more than about a bank robbery gone wrong. At its core, this book deals with human connection and the impact that people have on each other.
There are hints of tropes you would find in a procedural drama show or in a mystery book. But Backman flips them in a way that’s unpredictable. He’s always questioning your thought process and how you see the world. That’s what make this book so delightful. You think you’ve got everything figured out but in the next sentence he tells you it’s the exact opposite!
Backman always writes in very short chapters. So it feels like you’re only getting glimpses of characters and their motives. But it all fits together rather nicely when you piece things together.
All his characters are complex even the ones you think are on the sidelines and won’t provide anything to the story. He captures the human spirit, gets under his characters’ skin, and relays his characters’ thoughts and feelings in a way that makes us feel as if we know them, as if we are them.
There are several tough topics discussed in the book, including divorce, father-son relationships, betrayal, mental health, and suicide. But the book is also a poignant comedy and will have you laughing at the absurdity of the situation of a hostage situation gone wrong.
This is the perfect read for our troubled times, resonating deeply at so many levels, and if you don’t connect with it immediately, I urge you to stick with it. The pay off will come in spades.