Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
A person tries to rob a cashless bank and ends up taking a group of quirky people at an apartment viewing hostage. This book is classic Backman, full of strange, lovable characters and a heartwarming, humorous, bittersweet story.
Looking at real estate isn't usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can't fix up their own marriage. There's a wealthy banker who has been too busy making money to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can't seem to agree on anything, from where they want to live to how they met in the first place. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment's only bathroom, and you've got the worst group of hostages in the world.
Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises, these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in a motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.
Humorous, compassionate, and wise, Anxious People is an ingeniously constructed story about the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope—the things that save us, even in the most anxious of times.
What I love about Backman is the love you can feel he has for people. There’s no cynicism about human nature. The book is full of people who make terrible mistakes, but it has compassion for all of them. Backman doesn’t have traditional antagonists. His books take the philosophy that we’re all flawed, strange people looking for connection and we’re trapped in this nonsensical world together.
The book has a large cast of characters but they are distinctive and interesting enough to be able to easily keep them straight. There’s a wide variety of relationships, from father-son, mother-daughter, patient-therapist, romantic relationships, and friendships. All are written beautifully. I felt so connected to the characters, as I always do with Backman stories. It leaves you with a good feeling about the world and humanity, while in the least sugarcoating the problems we have. A great read for 2020.