I wonder if I will ever pick up a book by Backman and not be completely baffled at the synopsis only to fall in love with the book on the very first page (chances are slim, to be honest). Backman excels in Anxious People the way he has excelled in all his previous releases and it’s because of one thing: the way he writes the most painful truths, the way he uncovers what we all think sometimes, but would never dare speak aloud. It’s like he’s hiding in our brains, snagging our worst nightmares and most hopeful daydreams and shoves them into characters that will then make you question why you haven’t robbed a bank yet or gone into the real estate business (okay maybe that’s going a bit too far but you get my point, right?) ... Backman has a way with words that always leaves me reeling. He somehow manages to make everything sound hilarious while also creating moments and characters that change the way you view the world because you’re seeing other people’s perspectives. And even if you don’t agree with them, you at least understand ... Backman manages to make the ordinary feel extraordinary, imbibing seemingly drab topics with passion and fervour and it works every single time to leave me absolutely entranced. And it’s one hundred percent because of the characters ... Backman knows how to capture all the little moments in life we never really think about, the connections we make and take for granted instead of seeing them as the blessings they are, the kindnesses and cruelties that have become the norm when really, they should stand out, for better or for worse ... what I loved most about this book was how it made me question how far I would go for the people I love ... Riveting and jovial while not shying away from the hard truths of life, Anxious People demonstrates Backman’s ability to make even a would-be hostage situation one of the most entertaining and profound encounters to read about. May this man never stop writing.
... as this quirky story unfolds and its collection of misfit characters emerge, Anxious People gradually becomes truer than life itself ... Backman is a master of writing delightful, insightful, soulful, character-driven narratives ... With Backman, as with life, there’s always a more compelling backstory, more heartbreaking and heartwarming secrets ... If the first two remarkable, laugh-out-loud pages don’t hook you, read no further. If the first 100 pages feel like you’re waiting for Godot inside an Ikea (they dwell on the annoying Zara, so…), keep reading. You won’t regret it ... Backman writes so humorously and poignantly about life, marriage, parenthood, love and death, prepare to be taken hostage by a stand-up philosopher/novelist who reminds us we are all 'idiots' because being human is 'idiotically difficult' ... Anxious People is about how kindness and compassion count so much in surviving each day — a lesson for our times.
Cutting back and forth in time, the tight-knit, surprise-filled narrative slowly unravels this mystery while revealing the poignant backstories of both hostages and hostage taker, even as rattled nerves lead to some very funny exchanges. Meanwhile, the story of a suicide wrought by economic extremis quietly frames the action, unexpectedly tying together characters, and the brisk, absorbing action prompts meditation on marriage, parenting, responsibility, and global economic pressures ... Comedy, drama, mystery, and social study, this novel is undefinable except for the sheer reading pleasure it delivers. Highly recommended.
Backman’s gift for portraying the nuances of humanity is well known to his many loyal fans. With Anxious People, Backman once again captures readers’ hearts and imaginations ... Backman describes these events with a light touch, making clear early on that, though there’s a crime at the heart of this story, his novel is much more than this series of events ... could reasonably be called a mystery, but it’s also a deeply funny and warm examination of how individual experiences can bring a random group of people together. Backman reveals each character’s many imperfections with tremendous empathy, reminding us that people are always more than the sum of their flaws.
The observer/narrator is winding and given to tangents and, in early moments, might distract a bit too much from the strongly drawn characters. But the story gains energy and sureness as it develops, resulting in moments of insight and connection between its numerous amiable characters ... A story with both comedy and heartbreak sure to please Backman fans.
... witty, lighthearted ... While the prose is chockablock with odd metaphors and a plot twist leans on societal assumptions, Backman charms with his empathetic description of the robber, who gradually earns sympathy from the hostages. This amusing send-up of contemporary Swedish society is worth a look.