Anxious People: A Novel
by Backman Fredrik
Hardcover- $19.69

A People Book of the Week, Book of the Month Club selection, #1 Indie Next Pick, and Best of Fall in Good Housekeeping, PopSugar, The ...

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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 10/03/20

 
  "Backman explores human beings with tenderness" by thewanderingjew (see profile) 10/04/20

Anxious People, Fredrik Backman, author
Fredrik Backman has a unique gift. He knows how to bring out the best and worst traits of a human being with insights that are disclosed with such a light touch, that at first, the reader doesn’t realize how profound his message has really become. This novel takes place in Sweden. Because of some of the acknowledgements in the back of the book, it would appear that some of it is based on the biographical material of someone he knows or something that happens in his own life.
When the book begins, the reader learns of a suicide which leaves deep scars on a child witness who, they he tried desperately, he could not save the victim. Over the next decade, that child harbors disappointment in himself for his failure. His life is guided by that incident more than any other. As the child of a non-traditional priest, his mother, and a police officer in a town that needs few police officers, his father, he chooses to go into law enforcement too. Like them, he is motivated by a need to help others; the scar on his memory from the night of the suicide has a great influence on his decision.
Now grown, around 20 years old, he is working on a case with his dad. There has been an attempted bank robbery in their small town at a cashless bank which seems to be a ridiculous idea. The robber, who was desperate for a small amount of money for his rent, has failed to get any because there was none to be had. What kind of a bank robber is this? The robber fled and entered an apartment where there was a real estate open house and takes the house hunters hostage, mainly because they assume that was what the robber intended. The robber had a pistol in his hand. Like the bank, most of these people were cashless too!
When the hostage crisis ends, after some time, although there is no way for the robber to have gotten away, somehow the robber disappears. During the course of the interviews of each of the hostages, the reader is introduced to each character, complete with every possible idiosyncratic trait a human being can exhibit. Each character is explored so insightfully, that the reader will recognize something of each in someone they know, quite possibly themselves. Each of the hostages actively spars with the two officers, and the officers try to maintain their patience as they search out facts. None of them is perfect, you see. The subtle humor is everywhere as they reply glibly and sarcastically to the policemen.
Every angle of society’s ills today is explored with brilliance. Although suicide and the inability for someone to prevent it sometimes, and the desire to prevent it going forward is a major theme in the book, other themes like homophobia, poverty, divorce, crime, drugs, parent/child relationships, spousal relationships, honesty, secrets, fidelity, insecurity, and more are delved into and explored with such a light and gentle hand, that each subject emerges whole and healthy after it is exposed and dissected. In truth, it is a tender, if quirky and corny story sometimes. It works well as it highlights our present day problems and explores ways to understand and deal with them with kindness, compassion, warmth, intelligence and common sense, qualities so absent today in our current political environment, even now in the midst of the most dire circumstances with a President suffering from an illness that kills with abandon.
As the father and son interview the hostages, each and every one of them reveals their own flaws and hostilities and emerges happier and more content. Each learns to accept others with their warts and foibles, and each learns to genuinely care for each other, as well. Everyone makes mistakes. Forgiveness is the lifeblood of relationships. Abandoning someone in need is never an option, nor is cruelty. Finding the power to be courageous and give someone another chance is a gift they all receive as they interact with each other under duress. Each of the characters has something in common; each has had a trauma in their lives that left a permanent, indelible mark. As Backman lays them bare, they grow before the reader’s eyes into real human beings. They learn that although it may seem that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, if tomorrow comes, there just might well be. The idea is to face it and deal with it, not to run from it.
Because of the missing robber, and the two policemen, I wondered if the idea of a Holy Trinity was at work here? For the author, were the father (Jim), the son (Jack), and the holy ghost of suicide victims and other missing loved a symbol of that trio? For the hostages, loneliness, and on some level, the need to feel that there was something out there bigger than ourselves, unseen, not necessarily religion, but ideas like love, compassion and the support of others that can come to us in a variety of ways to help us weather any storm, if only we were willing to let that help in, in whatever form it might take, loomed large as a choice. Confession was monumentally important to free them, not only from the hostage situation, but from a life that felt as if it was a deadend.
Backman has a gift. He makes the extraordinary sound ordinary. With simple sentences that express absolute clarity, he is totally intuitive when it comes to human need, and he expresses it so naturally that the reader doesn’t realize the deep meaning of each sentence until they have moved on a bit, and then, they might turn back and reread a passage that remained in their mind as more than the sum of its parts. Each of his characters comes to life and can be visualized by the reader in appearance and personality, as if they were real. Backman has exposed the underbelly of all society’s ills and tried to cure them. Does he make it? I think so. By emphasizing the positive, by creating characters with alternate lifestyles and personalities, some being more likable than others, Backman leaves the readers possibly willing to try to change their own behavior for the better, to try and interact more successfully and positively with others.
Life is often filled with mistaken perceptions, incorrect knee jerk conclusions, over the top reactions and poor judgment, but it isn’t the end of the world. There is always a tomorrow and things can get better. There is always hope.

 
  "" by skhastings (see profile) 10/11/20

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 10/13/20

It was just ok for me. I didn’t get the humor and I felt like the book dragged on in the end.

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 10/15/20

 
  "Anxious People" by laureensa (see profile) 11/03/20

I really enjoy Frederik Backman's writing. I found some of his other books to be naturally very funny. I felt this one tries too hard to be funny, and therefore, is less so. However, what Backman does best is to help you grow to care about characters that you don't like initially, and he does not disappoint. There is a nice little surprise and I ended up liking it. It's not my favorite of his, but I liked it

 
  "Exploring how the worst in us is also the best in us" by [email protected] (see profile) 11/11/20

Backman is a master at getting to the core of the human experience. He is so insightful into how we feel and ways in which we are all connected. You will second guess every assumption you didn't even realize you made while reading this book. I got warm fuzzy feeling reading many passages and walk away feeling better about our humanity. A charming, sweet read that is emotionally satisfying.

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