If I could only read one book for the rest of my life, it would have, until recently, been ‘A Man Called Ove’ by Fredrik Backman. Now I will replace that with Backman’s latest book ‘Anxious People’. It’s that good. Backman is a fantastic writer who understands human complexities and insecurities like no other author I’ve read. Anxious People made me happy. It made me sad. I laughed. I cried. It was such an immersive read. There are many characters but I can’t pick a favorite. They all have little pieces of my heart.
A hilarious, outrageous novel about a robber who fails to rob a bank but sparks a hostage drama, the book touches issues of love, marriage and parenthood among many others. It’s very thought-provoking and uplifting. The story begins with a hostage drama. The hostage-taker has many problems in life—he is short on rent, and without a permanent place to stay he risks losing the custody of his daughter. But then he ends up trying to rob a cashless bank. When the cashier calls the police, he runs into a nearby apartment and takes hostage those who have come for the viewing.
Among the hostages are a lesbian couple, Julia and Ro, who is expecting a baby, an 87-year-old woman Estelle, Zara, a uber-rich bank manager who is in therapy for depression, Anna-Lena and Roger, a long-married couple who buy and renovate properties and sell them for a profit, Lennart, a rabbit (won’t say more because spoiler alert!) and a real estate agent. Then there are the cops: Jim and Jack. They are also father and son. The hostage situation is their first ever ‘big’ case and they have to google to find out how to deal with it.
Every character has his/her own backstory and so there’s a lot going on. But Backman juggles them with ease. You don’t lose track of the main plotline when the characters take you through their individual lives. You can see yourself or your loved ones in them. You can relate to their flaws. You struggle with the same problems. It’s all very humbling and calls for some introspection.
Backman has battled anxiety and depression all his life and he explores these complex topics in all his books. In Anxious People, the book that apparently took the longest to write according to the author, these mental health issues are once again taken up with love and compassion. Despite dealing with heavy topics, the novel is refreshing and fun as Backman is witty and that keeps the narrative non-preachy. I’ve already recommended the book to my family and friends and I can’t wait to discuss it with them when they are done.