Book Review: Anxious People

I have read only one book by Frederik Backman and it was A Man called Ove. I had loved that book and so was quite keen on reading this one. And WOW! This book is just fantastic. Frederik Backman is absolutely brilliant in this book. Anxious People is hilarious and yet heart-wrenching and though provoking. At its heart, the book deals with human connections and emotions.

This story features a bank robber, a hostage situation and an entire cast of extremely complicated hostages. While attempting to rob a bank, the bank robber finds that the bank didn’t have enough money. The failed robber runs into an apartment viewing and takes the people hostage. The 8 people gathered for apartment viewing become the bank robber’s reluctant hostages…and they are the worst and craziest hostages ever!

Jack and Jim, the police officers who also are son and father surround the building and eventually when the hostages are released, they hear a gunshot and find blood stains in the apartment but the amateur bank robber is nowhere to be seen. Jack thinks that one of the hostages perhaps helped the bank robber to escape. They interrogate the hostages about the hostage drama.

So we’re moving back and forth between interrogations. We learn more about the bank robber, the hostages’ back stories, their secrets, their reasons for attending the apartment viewing. Jack and Jim, who question the former hostages, are at their wits ends. They won’t answer questions and they talk in circles. It’s obvious that these former hostages are idiots and they make the police officers feel like idiots, too. So much goes wrong in a day! Where is the bank robber? How could the robber escape from a closed area with only one guarded exit?

This is a character driven novel and it delves into the trials and tribulations of each individual involved in this hostage drama. The characters are terrific. They are hilarious, weird and so endearing. The hostages include the real estate agent, a very pregnant and cranky lesbian and her spouse, a banker who has anxiety & sleep disorders; a sweet and enigmatic elderly lady and a bored older married couple who visit Ikea stores for fun. Then there is Leonard or the rabbit, who was hired to disrupt the apartment viewing. There’s a terrific pair of father-son duo as cops. My favorite hostage is the sarcastic, direct, smart and cool Zara. I just loved her interactions with her therapist Nadia. Another character I really loved is the golden-hearted Estelle whose back story will just break your heart into pieces.

Yes, it shook me so hard but it also entertained the hell of me. It was tragic, tear jerker, but it was also funny, enjoyable, witty! It was action packed, riveting, heart throbbing but it was also thought-provoking, complex, dazzling, deceptive, educational and heartfelt. I know you got confused. How a book makes laugh so hard and then makes you cry like a baby and also hooks you up from its riveting, exciting chapters and at some parts you want to stop, taking a deep breath to absorb what you read, aching for characters, feeling their pain but you’re also laughing their ridiculousness! This book captivates your heart, brain and your soul at the same time and plays with your emotional balance, juggling between different genres and you just want to clap the author and take a bow for his remarkable, original, unique work.

Anxious People is funny, moving and delightful. With its short chapters and intervals of police interviews and therapy sessions, the story moves at a fast pace. Frederik Backman is such a gifted writer. His writing is lyrical, quirky and heartwarming. He has beautifully turned this hostage crisis into something entertaining and meaningful. He made me laugh out loud and then there were times, when he made me cry.

Inspite of the lighter tone of the novel, some serious issues are dealt here like divorce, relationship issues, betrayal by someone you love, anxiety disorders and suicidal thoughts. There’s a mystery and the entire book is like a big puzzle and it’s not till the end that everything fits into place. It has twists and surprises until the very end. The ending came as a surprise but it was also heart melting, memorable and just perfect.

I don’t have words enough to describe this book. You won’t understand how incredible it is until you read this beautiful book which is all about human connections and love. Emotional, heart breaking, heart melting, hilarious!

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.


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