Anxious People has been on my TBR list since it came out 1.5 years ago. I’ve heard SO many rave reviews of this one, so when I finally got around to it, my expectations were pretty darn high. Keep reading to find out if it lived up to those expectations for me!
Viewing an apartment normally doesn’t turn into a life-or-death situation, but this particular open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes everyone in the apartment hostage. As the pressure mounts, the eight strangers begin slowly opening up to one another and reveal long-hidden truths.
First is Zara, a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else until tragedy changed her life. Now, she’s obsessed with visiting open houses to see how ordinary people live—and, perhaps, to set an old wrong to right. Then there’s Roger and Anna-Lena, an Ikea-addicted retired couple who are on a never-ending hunt for fixer-uppers to hide the fact that they don’t know how to fix their own failing marriage. Julia and Ro are a young lesbian couple and soon-to-be parents who are nervous about their chances for a successful life together since they can’t agree on anything. And there’s Estelle, an eighty-year-old woman who has lived long enough to be unimpressed by a masked bank robber waving a gun in her face. And despite the story she tells them all, Estelle hasn’t really come to the apartment to view it for her daughter, and her husband really isn’t outside parking the car.
As police surround the premises and television channels broadcast the hostage situation live, the tension mounts and even deeper secrets are slowly revealed. 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.
Like I said above, this book was so highly hyped and recommended to me over and over again, so I expected a 5-star read. For the most part, it lived up to those lofty expectations. But…there’s a but.
There’s no doubt that Backman is one of the best writers out there right now. The way he can take human nature and write it out in a story that makes his readers feel so much is just astounding. Anxious People, like his other books, didn’t fall short on any of those feels. It was feeling-full.
The hostage situation created such a unique setting for this story. What could be better than shoving a group of people who are very different from each other and have never met before into a room for hours in a somewhat stressful situation (at first)? Yeah, it made for a really interesting story with some fun interactions between characters.
The way that the past is weaved into this story is just superb. You go back into the lives of many of the characters that are stuck in that apartment, but it didn’t feel overwhelming with too many characters’ back stories.
I think my favorite part of this story was compassion. There is SO much compassion in Anxious People. From the hostages feeling compassion for the robber’s situation to the hostages learning about each other and reacting with (mostly) compassion, it was just a beautiful portrait of the way humans can be with each other, especially if given the chance to discover each others’ hardships.
The only thing that made me give Anxious People 4 stars instead of 5 is Backman’s kind of playful interjections like “this is a story about a bridge” – he speaks directly to the reader. I get it, they were unique and added something to the story, but every time I got to one I was just jerked out of the story to be reminded that I’m reading a story. It was okay, I get why it was there, but I didn’t love it.
Overall a stupendous, heartwarming read all about the beauty and fragility of human nature, I gave Anxious People 4 stars out of 5.