Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Anxious People

This clever, dark comedy about human nature and relationships starts with a real estate open house that goes dreadfully awry when a bumbling bank robber shows up.

 Swedish author Fredrik Backman has entertained readers worldwide, drawing them into fictional realms with ordinary people facing the absurdities of life and death. In Anxious People, he mines similar terrain, cleverly assembling an ensemble cast of characters, some of them utterly exasperating. He sets them in a darkly comic predicament that will challenge them as a group and personally, opening the story to larger themes about the foibles, pitfalls and traps of living.


Backman's construct is straightforward: an open-house apartment viewing. What could possibly go wrong? Everything, especially when a gun-wielding bank robber targets a cashless bank and winds up, through a series of mishaps, at the open house. In bumbling, snowballing desperation, the robber takes eight people, high-maintenance strangers at the viewing, hostage. When the robber ultimately escapes, two police officers--a father and son facing personal struggles of their own--investigate the crime and try to make sense of the who, how and why of this topsy-turvy, totally-gone-awry robbery scenario and all involved.


Backman (Us Against You) skillfully employs an omniscient narrative voice and short, focused chapters that unwind an intricate plot through interspersed--extremely telling and very funny--police interrogation scenes. Readers are kept off-balance by details of the hostage siege as characters reveal their personal dilemmas. This intensifies the narrative tension and drama, upping the literal and figurative anxiousness of the book's title. Backman's signature storytelling wit and wisdom--the way he unravels his puzzle while peeling back layers of complex relationships, personal burdens and secrets carried by all--enables this fresh, quirky, over-the-top comedy to coalesce into poignant profundity.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Atria, $28.00 Hardcover, 9781501160837, 352 pages

Publication Date: September 29, 2020

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE


NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (September 8, 2020), link HERE


To read the longer form of this review as published on Shelf Awareness for the Book Trade (August 14, 2020), link HERE