A hostage situation. A man on a bridge, about to jump. Two unrelated events, years apart, intertwine in this funny, deftly clever, and subversive tale from “New York Times” bestselling author Fredrik Backman.
Backman is a Swedish writer who rose to worldwide literary fame with his debut novel, “A Man Called Ove” (now being adapted for film starring Tom Hanks). His books, translated into English from his native Swedish, shine with hope and humanity and are especially poignant reads as we move forward from the difficult year of 2020.
A fresh start seems impossible for most of the characters in “Anxious People,” brought together by twin tragedies. Caught up in the maelstrom of their lives, one character deals with divorce and the loss of a job, income, and potentially her children with a surprising choice: bank robbery.
It goes awry almost immediately and morphs into a hostage situation at an apartment open house, which somehow morphs again into an endearing and heartwarming tale that succeeds beyond the sum of all its zany and disparate parts as the hostages grapple with their situation and their lives.
Among those trapped inside the apartment include a wealthy bank manager, one couple facing harsh truths about their long marriage, and another couple facing the impending arrival of their baby. Each of the characters impacts the others’ lives in ways that are unforeseeable and immense, and each of them carries secrets. Attempting to save them are two police officers who approach their work in diametrically opposed ways.
Clear your calendar for this book — it’s the perfect read for a cozy winter night indoors and an excellent one to start your new year reading. Backman has built an international career out of word-of-mouth recommendations, and for good reason. Let this book be your entry into his impressive backlist, each book more endearing than the last.
“Anxious People” is often a hard book, and sometimes a silly book, and above all, it is a book that might even make you cry. You may re-examine what effect your life has had on others and others’ have had on yours, and maybe you’ll even forgive them and yourself for the way you move through the world.
It’s also a reminder that you don’t need to create a life that looks perfect to others; you need to create a life you love, and maybe, just maybe, you can rely on others to help you do it