Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Book Review: "Anxious People" by Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman's newest novel, Anxious People, is poignant, thought-provoking, and a little bewildering.

This is a story about a bank robbery and a subsequent hostage situation. But not really. I mean, these things happen and factor in the book but in the end, this is a book about connections, how desperate we are to be seen by others, and how even those who are supposed to help us in our time of need are sometimes in need of rescue as well.

Anxious People tells a story—many stories, really—in a very roundabout way. It travels from past to present, focusing on many different people, and their stories are juxtaposed with interviews between the police and the hostages. I felt as if the interviews were supposed to provide comic relief, but they were almost too outrageous and annoying that they frustrated me more than amused me.

There are a lot of characters and situations to keep straight, and Backman throws lots of twists and turns into the story. I'll admit I had to go back and read some incidents again to make sure I was clear on what actually happened. But there is a lot of emotion here, too, and I think when Backman writes about the emotional connections we have—with loved ones, friends, strangers—and how they enrich and affect us in ways we might never know, he's found his sweet spot.

I love the way Backman tells a story. (Two of his books, Beartown and Us Against You, are among my favorite books from the last decade.) Even though this one didn’t completely click for me, my love of his writing won out. There was still a lot to love about this book.

I’ve seen mixed things on this—some have given it 5 stars while others have struggled—but it’s definitely worth a read.

Atria Books and Ariele Stewart provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making it available!!

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