Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Published September 8th 2020 by Atria Books


A poignant, charming novel about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined

Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix up their own marriage. There’s a wealthy banker who has been too busy making money to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything, from where they want to live to how they met in the first place. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.

Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises, these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in a motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.

Humorous, compassionate, and wise, Anxious People is an ingeniously constructed story about the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope—the things that save us, even in the most anxious of times.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Police office. 8 P.M. The record of examination of a witness Nastassja. Case: an attempted bank robbery. Note: a cashless bank.

Investigator: So, what can you tell us about the perpetrator?

Nastassja: Who?

Investigator: The bank robber.

Nastassja: Ah, the bank robber has nothing to do with it.

Investigator: How do you mean?

Nastassja: Simply. Blame the bridge.

Investigator:: Elaborate, please.

Nastassja: *sigh* It is a stream of consequential events that started many years ago on the bridge. It’s about seeming strangers united by the past.

Investigator: But what does it has to do with the bank robber who disappeared inside the apartment?

Nastassja: Idiots.

Investigator: Excuse me?!

Nastassja: People are idiots.

“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.”

Investigator:*clears throat* Okay, let’s get back to the bank robber.

Nastassja: The bank robber is just a victim of the bank.

Investigator: But how can that be if he is the one who tried to rob the bank?

Nastassja: Yes, but the bank robbed him first.

“It means that the poor get poorer, the rich get richer, and the real class divide is between those who can borrow money and those who can’t. Because no matter how much money anyone earns, they still lie awake at the end of the month worrying about money. Everyone looks at what their neighbors have and wonders, ‘How can they afford that?’ because everyone is living beyond their means. So not even really rich people ever feel really rich, because in the end the only thing you can buy is a more expensive version of something you’ve already got. With borrowed money.”

Investigator: This is so very confusing. You are so very confusing.

Nastassja: It’s because we all are Anxious people in search of a life meaning. And we pretend to be adults when in truth we don’t really want to grow-up.

Because there’s such an unbelievable amount that we’re all supposed to be able to cope with these days. You’re supposed to have a job, and somewhere to live, and a family, and you’re supposed to pay taxes and have clean underwear and remember the password to your damn Wi-Fi. Some of us never manage to get the chaos under control, so our lives simply carry on, the world spinning through space at two million miles an hour while we bounce about on its surface like so many lost socks. Our hearts are bars of soap that we keep losing hold of; the moment we relax, they drift off and fall in love and get broken, all in the wink of an eye. We’re not in control. So we learn to pretend, all the time, about our jobs and our marriages and our children and everything else. We pretend we’re normal, that we’re reasonably well educated, that we understand “amortization levels” and “inflation rates.” That we know how sex works. In truth, we know as much about sex as we do about USB leads, and it always takes us four tries to get those little buggers in. (Wrong way round, wrong way round, wrong way round, there! In!) We pretend to be good parents when all we really do is provide our kids with food and clothing and tell them off when they put chewing gum they find on the ground in their mouths. We tried keeping tropical fish once and they all died. And we really don’t know more about children than tropical fish, so the responsibility frightens the life out of us each morning. We don’t have a plan, we just do our best to get through the day, because there’ll be another one coming along tomorrow.

Investigator: I do.

Nastassja: That’s because you are an idio–

*The sentence is interrupted by the sound of fireworks outside*

Nastassja: You know what, detective? It’s not good to work on Christmas Eve. Go home, go to your family. Kiss your wife, hug your kids, and just be a father. Life is too short to waste it on bank robbers!

*The record is cut off at 8:45 P.M.*

3 thoughts on “Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

  1. Pingback: Monthly Wrap-Up – November 2020 – Stephen Writes

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