Anxious People are idiots.
At least, that’s what you first think as you are reading the newest release by Fredrik Backman. But as you read further, you’ll find that this story is layered and more meaningful than the above statement. What starts out as a failed-bank-robbery-turned-hostage-drama becomes so much more, and Backman does this with his effortless language and layered plot. He starts the story smack dab in the middle of things, and then you go deeper into the middle of things and stay there until you’re not there anymore. And if you liked reading the tone of that last sentence, you’ll love reading Anxious People (Atria Books).
Backman’s paragraphs flow effortlessly, with the direct bluntness that’s become his signature style and will keep you turning pages. If you are new to Backman’s writing, you’ll appreciate the frank, deceptively simple statements, the way he pulls you in with his stream-of-consciousness-like flow of ideas, and the artful way he weaves a suicide from ten years ago with the current bank robbery turned hostage situation to create a sense of mystery that keeps you reading.* As he tells us about these not-so-little incidents in this small town, he moves back and forth between speaking directly to our reader and showing each main character’s point of view, the comparison pulling us in even further. But what compels us the most are the characters themselves.
Anxious People are fascinating.
As we’re introduced to our ensemble of characters, your first notion may be to roll your eyes. I did. Everyone feels self-important, like their needs should be cared about, like their stories should be heard. It’s like watching a few episodes of Seinfeld, wondering why you started watching this show about nothing with these irritating people. Backman’s characters remind me of this lady I work with. She’s always going on about things that have nothing to do with the subject at hand just to be heard … but I digress.
And when you find yourself — like I did — inadvertently thinking about the anxious people in your own life and relating to many of the actions of these characters, you’re already too far gone, empathizing with these dysfunctional, nonsensical, wonderfully anxious people. Probably a lot like you felt after those first few episodes of Seinfeld where you realized you were laughing, and you felt a little better about your own life issues, and you wanted to watch a few more — purely to see what was going to happen next.
If you went into Backman’s first novel A Man Called Ove thinking that book was about a man named Ove then realized it was really about a person named [insert your name here], then prepare to feel the same way again. If you have yet to read it, you’re in for an eye-opening treat with this story.
You are Anxious People.
The aftereffects of what these characters do, and the impact those actions will have on their lives, will stay with you long after the last page of this novel.
*Trigger warning: contains scenes of suicide and near-suicide.