Book Review: Anxious People

Overall Rating: 5/5

A bank robber, multiple hostages, two police officers, a psychologist, and a whole lot of anxiety.

At the core of Anxious People lies an intriguing mystery that arises when a bank robbery-turned-hostage situation is resolved, only for the perpetrator to have vanished into thin air. But beyond the question of who committed the crime lies a poignant tale filled to the brim with comedy, love, and acute insight into human nature and connections. Backman blew me away with the sheer depth of his work, and this book felt like a salve for all the emotionally and mentally taxing days that have transpired in the last year.

I was instantly drawn to Backman’s style of writing – the book is highly conversational in tone, making for an easy and engaging read. It starts off as a metanarrative, and many of the characters are not named until later chapters, allowing for readers to approach the story almost analytically. This evolves over the pages, and the relationship that develops between readers and the characters is reflective of the trajectory of the book – one that tunnels into the interpersonal relationships in the story, and explores fundamental concepts around the nature of and the good in humanity. Each character is a nuanced individual whose layers are carefully peeled back as the narrative progresses, and the dynamic that ensues among them is heartwarming and downright hilarious. So much so, that the mystery itself takes a complete backseat to the character-driven aspects of the story in a truly impressive manner. Also, huge props to the translator – I can only imagine what the original novel reads like but it felt as though it really did justice to Backman’s work.

There is little – if anything – that I did not love about this book. Yes, things pan out a little too perfectly and yes, it may not be the most realistic story. But that is hardly the point of the novel and I think if you accept it for what it is intended to be, you will love it as well.

I would recommend Anxious People to anyone struggling right now and looking for a soothing novel that is both entertaining and healing. It is fast-paced, unique, and leaves you feeling like you just enjoyed a filling feast with close family and friends by a crackling fireplace. This was one of those books that had me rereading specific sentences over and over – it really is that special. Many have told me to try reading A Man Called Ove so I will be adding that to my TBR list! Have you read any of Backman’s books? How do they compare to Anxious People?

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