Anxious People

Anxious People

Large Print - 2020
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This is a story about a hostage drama. But more than that, it's a story about idiots. That's why, from the very outset, I need to say that it is always very easy to declare people idiots, but only if you forget that it is also almost always idiotically difficult to be human. Anxious People is an unreasonably riotous comedy about a hostage drama during an open house that all begins when a failed bank robber locks himself in with six strangers who have come to view the apartment. In captivity we meet Roger and Anna-Lena, a recently retired couple who are on a manic hunt for fixer-uppers because they don't know how to fix their own marriage. They have the distinction of shopping at every Ikea in Sweden-and those are some of the most romantic moments they ever shared. Then there is Zara, a wealthy director of a bank who has never cared for poor people or their problems (and isn't shy about saying so). But when tragedy strikes in her life, she becomes addicted to visiting real-estate open houses to see how the middle-classes live - and possibly to find a suitable place to commit suicide. Julia and Danijela are a young lesbian couple with a newborn baby who can't agree on anything. Their opposite and idiosyncratic home preferences are making them increasingly anxious about their chances of spending a lifetime together. And Estelle, an eighty year-old woman who has lived long enough to be unimpressed by some bank robber waving a gun in her face. 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 are broadcasting live, the pressure of an increasingly tense situation mounts, causing each person to reveal more and more about themselves to each other. 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. In the end, the hostages are released, but when the police storm the apartment to capture the robber, it is ... empty. In a series of interviews afterwards, the witnesses all tell their version of what happened that day, whereupon it becomes clear to the police that one person is lying, and that none of the others are telling the whole truth. This is a story about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and a group of very anxious people who experience the same events in wildly different ways.
Publisher: [Waterville, Maine] : Thorndike Press, a part of Gale, a Cengage Company, ♭2020.
Edition: Large print edition.
ISBN: 9781432879716
Characteristics: 549 pages ;,23 cm.
Additional Contributors: Smith, Neil (Neil Andrew), - Translator


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Mar 01, 2021

4 -4 1/2 stars. I think I expected a different kind of book as I found it a bit hard to get into the book at the beginning. But then I got it and found the book to be an interesting read. A bank robber who tried to rob a cashless bank is on the run from police and ducks into an apartment building and into an open door that leads to an open house with a number of people in there. Soon there is a hostage incident. But the bank robber is not the hostage taker per se and the people in the room are not that frightened. Two police officers, a father and son, are interested and interesting parties. The book is full of interesting people trying their best to overcome the things that life throws at them. At times funny and at times so poignant and spot on that tears came to my eyes, this book was quite a surprise.

Feb 17, 2021

Utterly boring couldn’t get past the ridiculous use of totally unnecessary words on every. single. page. like reading a lot of noise.

Feb 17, 2021

The author takes a different route to finding our characters spirit and personality. He looks at the 8 characters from so many angles that their true nature is not revealed until the end. It is a tale the offers delight and sadness, pokes fun at society and each character's preconceived notions. The author pokes fun at the reader and the author, too, teasing us with one misconception of reality after another.

Being a Backman tale, the characters all find a degree of satisfaction with their final lot. These 8(?) charactors may not be unforgettable, but he never forgets his characters. It's a cautionary fairy tale, told with care. I admire everything I've read by him; this may be his best work to date.

Feb 13, 2021

Well-written populist brainfiller.

Jan 23, 2021

Only the 2nd Backman book I've read (after A Man Called Ove), and I loved this one!

A bit confusing in the timeline, with some necessary repetition, but stick with this book. Interesting characters, location, excellent backstories, and it all gets wrapped up satisfyingly well. Reminiscent of the 2004 movie "Crash" (, in that lots of seemingly unrelated characters cross paths with life changing outcomes. I highly recommend this book!

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.

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