Dear Anxious People,
I left you feeling in awe and hopeful. You took me for a long journey even though we barely left the apartment, yet to see humanity in mere paper and ink is remarkable. Thank you for the opportunity to meet a collection of people who probably should not have been in a room together, but who are better for it.
P.S. Book Details
Author: Fredrik Backman
Book Length: 341 pages
Book Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: September 8, 2020
Awards: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fiction (2020)
Synopsis: 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.
Since his debut novel, A Man Called Ove, Backman has become well loved by me and those I have pushed him on. There is something in Backman’s stories which draw people in and make heart connections with the characters. He always seem to surprise me in one way or another. Anxious People was no exception to his superb storytelling.
Last week, I mentioned a comment made by Backman in my review of Know My Name. To review, when we as the reader are crying during a passage it is likely he was crying while writing the passage. Emotion is communicated through felt experience. I could feel much of the emotion Backman wrote about in each of the characters. In his novels, I appreciate how much time he will put into diving into the little details of a character and making them human to the reader. Every character in the story had their little ticks or minute details which made them three dimensional. For instance, one of the characters knew an IKEA magazine from front to back with details. While this is an interesting fact, the reason behind why she knows this information is where we get personal. Trust me, when people are locked in a room together for the duration of the book, there is a lot of time to get personal. It is also so fun to see the interconnectedness of his characters and how he ties everything together. I believe much of the draw to his novels is his unique ability to speak to the human soul through letters in an alphabet. Honestly, it is quite remarkable.
Similar to the style of Us Against You, Backman writes in circles. He says the same thing in different ways again and again. As a result, some people do not feel like the plot develops well or it feels boring to read. I am of the opinion each level is like a funnel. Round and round the reader goes until finally we reach the bottom, the end of the story, and it is never what I imagined at the beginning. Sometimes I find it difficult to follow non-linear stories. Backman kept the focus on “the present”, while bringing in memories of the characters during relevant moments. I didn’t feel lost because his pace kept forward movement while drawing the reader deeper into ALL that was happening, not just the surface.
I recognize this book is not for everyone, even within people who enjoy reading Backman books. I recommend this book to readers who have enjoyed Us Against You or The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. Backman says he feels more like a storyteller than a writer, because writing is about the craft and storytelling is about the story and connecting to the reader. Every time I pick up a Backman book I am in awe of how he ties the story together and draws readers in from the first page.