Anxious People is a book that sneaks up on you somewhat…but it is one that I would urge people to read.
The narrative focuses on a hostage situation, taking place just before New Year, when a group of prospective buyers in an apartment are taken hostage by a bank robber needing to escape quickly after their planned raid goes wrong. Though the scenario around which this story revolves sounds dramatic, the story itself is gentle and far more emotional than I was expecting.
Backman shows us – through this scenario – the threads that bind us, though we may not realise them initially, and encourages us to explore our own interactions with others.
Piece by piece, we are shown what led to this most unusual situation. We gradually learn little details about the hostages within the apartment, see the thought process of the police responding to this crime and come to understand some of the decisions that lead our characters to the point in time at which we meet them.
I never thought I would find myself feeling sympathy for so many characters. From the bank robber doing the wrong thing for what could be argued are good reasons to all of the hostages, Backman reveals details about their lives that I could not help but react emotionally to. The hostage-taking scenario aside, there are no grand gestures here but this was a gentle – at times, very funny – look at loneliness and how we can, sometimes, lose control of things around us.
As always, Backman’s style draws you in. There’s a genuine warmth for the minutiae of people’s lives and the little details that can affect our choices. Interspersing the story with the transcriptions of the police interviews allowed us to learn little details to help our understanding, but which also allowed us to understand how we arrived at the final destination.