Review Time: Anxious People

“We don’t have a plan, we just do our best to get through the day, because there’ll be another one coming along tomorrow.”

One morning, a person in a “not particularly large or noteworthy town” in Sweden leaves home with a (fake) pistol and a plan to rob a bank. Except things never go as planned, and the bank didn’t end up getting robbed. But the would-be bank robber needs a place to hide after the admittedly not-well-laid plan goes awry. As it happens, directly across the street from the almost-robbed bank, a real estate agent is hosting an open house. Which, to the bank robber, is a good of a place as any to hide out. And while the bank robber hadn’t planned on actually robbing the bank and needing a place to hide from the police, the eight people at the open house hadn’t planned on being taken hostage on the day before New Year’s Eve either. But here they are. And all of them — bank robber included — have to work through their own demons if they want to make it out of this hostage situation with their sanity.

Let me just say this. Anxious People was DELIGHTFUL. It’s one of those novels that leaves you thinking about it for many more hours than it took to read it. It’s a story that’s made of 10 or 12 smaller, interconnected stories, some more obviously connected than others. But all beautifully interwoven once the final chapter ends. It’s one of those books that hosts a cast of characters that are so painfully *human* that you can see your past, current and future selves in all of them. I’m getting too heavy here. What I’m trying to say is… they’re all equal points annoying AF and lovable. They’re all tragically genuine. Each of their stories will break your heart a little bit, and each of their stories will restore your faith that everyone really is just trying their best. Truthfully, this book was magical because at the end of each chapter, Backman drops a little revelation that changes everything you’ve read thus far. I can’t tell you how many times I went back and read a previous chapter once the chapter-end revelation dropped and everything came into a little bit more focus. Ugh I already want to read it again.

My Favorite Scene: The nature and construction of Anxious People makes it really kind of hard to describe anything specific about the plot because there are so many layers to unpeel. But I will say that there’s a scene when some of the hostages are sitting in the closet hiding, and they start talking about their lives and hopes and dreams (as you do during a hostage situation) and everyone — no matter how broken  —is just so damn beautiful. 10/10.

Grade: ★★★★★

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