Anxious People

Anxious People

Book - 2020
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Viewing an apartment normally doesn't turn into a life-or-death situation, but this particular open house becomes just that: a failed bank robber bursts in and takes everyone in the apartment hostage. As police surround the premises and television channels broadcast the hostage situation live, the eight strangers begin opening up to one another. Before long, the robber must decide which is the more terrifying prospect: going out to face the police, or staying in the apartment with this group of impossible people. -- adapted from jacket
Publisher: New York : Atria Books, 2020
Edition: First Atria Books hardcover edition
Copyright Date: ©2019
ISBN: 9781501160837
Branch Call Number: FICTION BACKM...F
Characteristics: 341 pages ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Smith, Neil (Neil Andrew), - Translator
Notes: "Originally published in Sweden in 2019 as: Folk med ångest."--title page verso


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Jan 20, 2021

I loved this book so much that I read it twice! As I read it the first time, I was a bit impatient with some of the characters, who appeared to be unusually obtuse and difficult. But I kept reading anyway, and I am so glad I did: the ending totally blew me away! Not only did the author tie everything together in the most satisfying way, but he also showed that the characters had depths that I had missed when I first judged them. One moral of this story is: Your first impression of another person may be totally wrong. Do not give up on them! Keep listening!

If you have heard about this book, you may have heard that it is about a group of people at an apartment viewing (what we would call an open house) who are taken hostage by a failed bank robber. Technically, that is true, but this book is SO much more than that!

Even the author has trouble telling us what the book is about. Mr. Backman’s writing style is not everyone’s cup of tea, and of course, his work is translated from Swedish, but he is constantly foreshadowing and summarizing. Please bear with him, because he has a lot to say in this book.

Here are the opening two paragraphs of the book, to give you an idea:

“A bank robbery. A hostage drama. A stairwell full of police officers on their way to storm an apartment. It was easy to get to this point, much easier than you might think. All it took was one single really bad idea.

“This story is about a lot of things, but mostly about idiots. So it needs saying from the outset that it’s always very easy to declare that other people are idiots, but only if you forget how idiotically difficult being human is. Especially if you have other people you’re trying to be a reasonably good human being for.”

Mr. Backman then presents a list of all of the things we are all supposed to be able to cope with these days, and it is humorous but overwhelming. He points out that we are all doing everything we can just to get through another day, and we think everyone but us has it all figured out. The reality is that everyone is stressed and feels like an imposter at least some of the time (and often most of the time).

Warning to all of you in the financial industry: Mr. Backman is not a fan of banks, and he clearly thinks it is horrific that when the economic recession of 2008-9 happened, the people who suffered and lost everything were regular people who trusted banks and financial people, while the people running the banks and other financial institutions got off scot-free.

But I think the most important lesson of this book is connection. When I started reading this book, I thought these characters were all disparate people with nothing in common, but that turned out to be wrong. There were all sorts of connections. And new connections were formed during the course of this book.

That is why I had to read this book a second time. When I got to the end and saw where the author was going, I had to go back and see how he set everything up. And it is brilliant!! I enjoyed reading this book the first time, but I truly savored every word the second time. I saw all the clever things I had missed on my first reading. And I wept at the end, even though it is not sad—I promise you that it is not sad. It is wonderful!

In Anxious People, we not only get to know the people taken hostage in the apartment, but we also get to know the policemen (father and son) who are trying to resolve the hostage crisis. Everyone is more complicated than they first appear. Is that not true of every person on the planet?

Some readers might pooh-pooh this book as a fairy tale. Perhaps they are right. I prefer to think of this book as showing that while we may all be idiots, we can rise to the occasion when the chips are down. We are never better than when we reach out and help others who are hurting or in trouble.

And THAT is a message we need to hear today and every day!

Jan 19, 2021

What a tedious read. I was so looking forward to reading this book - I love Backman’s style - and was disappointed. Here’s a scheme how the plot develops - one step forward, two steps back. Some attempts to be funny. A few brilliant thoughts, yes. Half a book that what I managed to conquer.

ArapahoePaige Jan 15, 2021

It’s about a bank robber. A bridge. A rabbit? But mostly it’s a bare-knuckled examination of people, relationships and expectations wrapped in witty, wry observations that make you laugh out loud. Each character has a story, the lead role, and their own truth. But who’s the bank robber?

Jan 15, 2021

I enjoy Backman's writing which sometimes makes me laugh out loud and few pages later I will be reading with tears in my eyes.

JCLBetM Jan 11, 2021

I already knew from reading "A Man Called Ove" that Backman has a gift of creating nuanced and realistic characters whose flaws you appreciate as much as their virtues. But he outdid himself with this one. I'd be laughing one moment, and tearing up the next over the various issues this mad cast of characters were dealing with. And somehow the puzzle of time he creates by shifting back and forth within the hostage episode itself, as well as events years earlier, enriches the story and helps you suspend judgment as you watch the various pieces laid into place. I didn't love it immediately, but I certainly did by the end.

Jan 04, 2021

Just outstanding. Funny and sad and poignant and real. I loved this book and these flawed characters.

WPL_Jaclyn Dec 12, 2020

We all need this book in 2020. Such a great reminder of empathy. No one writes simple yet powerful characters like Backman. I loved this quirky novel of a robbery gone very awry. Each and everyone involved has a story to tell and I loved how Backman brought each character to life (and with a few surprises too!). I also listened to this one; no one narrators like Marin Ireland.

Nov 25, 2020

What an unimaginable book. A story which leads you through many stories of love, tragedy, relationships, and life, all intertwined together via the main story line, which in reality is not the main story line after all.

All the characters are either tied together from the beginning or become tied into the story as a result of the story. Here is where the story is so powerful. For it is about each of the characters, not the events. It is about what either happened to them in the past, or what is unfolding now, or both. It is the events and how those events impact them now and how they come to play out in the end.

It is not a convoluted story, nor is it complex. Seriously simplistic but not written in the usual style one is accustomed to reading. For the main story plot (which is not the main story plot after all), is only the premise by which the characters come together and end up interacting with one another. The main plot is the actually the subplot, allowing the author to reveal the depth and fullness of each of the characters.

A rich and touching story about life, giving life meaning and purpose. So rich and captivating, you become engrossed, engaged, and empathetic to each of the characters. There is no one to hate, there is no bad guy, just a group of people who are being people and who are muddling through life. In it all, there is the realization that life is full of mistakes, regrets, and sorrows, but that is what life is all about and we all each experience it in a different way and it impacts us each differently.

Forgiveness; forgiveness of ourselves; forgiveness of others. This is what life is an what we experience.

Nov 20, 2020

A bank robber, two officers, an open house filled with "idiots" & unexpected new beginnings stemming from a very bad day. A novel of struggles, humanity and redemption.

Nov 17, 2020

Disappointing book. Found the characters annoying and the attempts at humor cringeworthy. There were some moments of brilliance during monologues but even these didn't seem to lend to the story. Perhaps it gets better later in the book, but I couldn't wait any longer. I stopped at Chapter 2.

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