Fredrik Backman captured my attention with A Man Called Ove and held it with Britt Marie Was Here and Beartown. So when I started reading his latest novel, Anxious People, I was feeling a pang of doubt that I was going to like it. The style was clipped, circuitous and deliberately vague. During these COVID crazy months, I have walked away from a lot of books that just didn’t have the heft to keep me engaged. I was praying that Anxious People would not fall into that same sad sack pack. I was not disappointed!
This story, as seemingly meandering as it may appear, is actually well-structured and we find the rhythm and the connectivity to the characters as we need to. And what evolves is an illustration of the power of the human heart and conversely, the lengths to which humans will go to protect the fragility of their emotional core.
This is a story about a bank robbery, a bridge, a hostage taking or, according to the narrator, none of the above. But it is a story of heartbreak, friendship, loyalty and forgiveness. We are introduced to characters who, at first glance, may seem unlikeable and obstreperous but as the narrative evolves, there unfolds a symmetry and connectivity that changes the dynamic in every way. From the interview room in the local police station to the apartment where the hostage taking occurs, the lives of the characters unfurl and we can witness the tango that has brought them all to the dance floor. (A side note about the effect that COVID is having on me… my first thought when I was reading about all of the people at the apartment viewing was ‘Are they wearing masks and how are they keeping 2 metres apart”?)
Backman is a master at making the simple seem powerful and the powerful seem simple. Whether it is people, events or emotions he is framing, he can cut the wheat from the chaff and reveal the core of the human experience. I found myself riveted to this book, anxious to know how the threads would come together. Definitely not a contender for the sad sack pack!!!
— Nancy C.