Thursday, December 24, 2020

Anxious People

  Anxious People
Author:  Fredrik Backman
Publication Information:  Atria Books. 2020. 352 pages.
ISBN:  1501160834 / 978-1501160837

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "A bank robbery."

Favorite Quote:  "They say that a person's personality is the sum of their experiences. But that isn't true, at least not entirely, because if our past was all that defined us, we'd never be able to put up with ourselves. We need to be allowed to convince ourselves that we're more than the mistakes we made yesterday. That we are all of our next choices, too, all of our tomorrows."

"This is a story about a bridge, and idiots, and a hostage drama, and an apartment viewing. But it's also a love story. Several, in fact."

Sometimes, this story is as scattered and disjointed as the first sentence would suggest. Sometimes, it all comes together and becomes about what happens when good people - no matter how faulty, broken, and anxious they may be - act out of love individually and collectively.

The bank robber is a parent afraid of losing their child. Zara is woman filled with regret for a decision made long ago. Nadia is a psychologist who took on her profession for a very personal reason. Estelle grieves the loss of a beloved husband and the life they had together. Roger and Anna-Lena have been married a long time, and perhaps the relationship is stagnating. Julia and Ro are relative newlyweds and soon-to-be parents. Lennart is there by chance or by fate, depending on your outlook. The realtor is there for business. Jim and Jack are father and son and fellow police officers. These are the "idiots" whose stories intersect in this book. "... most people never become individuals to us. They're just people. We're just strangers passing each other, your anxieties briefly brushing against mine as the fibers of our coats touch momentarily on a crowded sidewalk somewhere. We never really know what we do to each other, with each other, for each other."

The bridge is in a small town near Stockholm. It is both a place where people place locks of love and contemplate suicide.

The hostage drama ensues because an act of desperation in a bank goes very very wrong.

The apartment, during the course of a day, is where many things are healed and many answers are found.

The "plot" of the book goes that someone attempts a bank robbery at a cashless bank. In panic and on the run, the bank robber enters an open door to an apartment. In the apartment are a number of people considering the purchase of the home. The bank robber has a gun. The apartment viewers end up hostages. The police is called in. The hostage situation ends. The hostages leave, but the gun and blood on the carpet remains. The question remains. Who was the bank robber and where did they go? The police interview each of the hostages in an attempt to solve the mystery.

In this context, the book goes back in time and reveals what leads each individual to this place at this point in time. Some of it is over the top. A woman who states that she views apartments of those less wealthy than her as therapy. A man dressed in underwear and a rabbit head makes an appearance. The police interviews are ridiculous and seem to ridicule the process. There are moments that the entire book seems ridiculous and gimmicky.

Somehow, though, towards the end, the stories and the relationships become clear and it all comes together. The ending is sweet and feel-good and all about acting out of love. "She told herself that was why you should always be nice to other people, even idiots, because you never know how heavy their burden is." In a world so full of negativity some days, I will take sweet and feel-good any day and every day.

This is the seventh Fredrik Backman book I have read. Some have left lasting impressions. Some I have enjoyed and let go. This one was iffy for a bit to the point that I almost put it down. I am glad I did not for in the end, it leaves me with a memory of the characters and a smile on my face as most of his other books have.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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