Thank you to Atria books for sending me a free copy of Anxious People in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
Viewing an apartment normally doesn’t turn into a life-or-death situation, but this particular open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes everyone in the apartment hostage. As the pressure mounts, the eight strangers slowly begin opening up to one another and reveal long-hidden truths.
First is Zara, a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else until tragedy changed her life. Now, she’s obsessed with visiting open houses to see how ordinary people live—and, perhaps, to set an old wrong to right. Then there’s Roger and Anna-Lena, an Ikea-addicted retired couple who are on a never-ending hunt for fixer-uppers to hide the fact that they don’t know how to fix their own failing marriage. Julia and Ro are a young lesbian couple and soon-to-be parents who are nervous about their chances for a successful life together since they can’t agree on anything. And there’s Estelle, an eighty-year-old woman who has lived long enough to be unimpressed by a masked bank robber waving a gun in her face. And despite the story she tells them all, Estelle hasn’t really come to the apartment to view it for her daughter, and her husband really isn’t outside parking the car.
As police surround the premises and television channels broadcast the hostage situation live, the tension mounts and even deeper secrets are slowly revealed. Before long, the robber must decide which is the more terrifying prospect: going out to face the police, or staying in the apartment with this group of impossible people.
I don’t mind being the dark horse on this one. I know the Fredrick Backman is an insanely well loved author, and while I absolutely loved A Man Called Ove, I haven’t liked a single other book by this author, including Anxious People. I gave this one a try because it sounded really different for him, but it didn’t work for me.
First of all, there are a lot of characters in this novel, and each of them have a very sad life story. There was literally nothing positive in any of their lives. You get lots of little glimpses into the backstory of each character but nothing too deep. Just enough to let you know how miserable they are.
Every few chapters, there is a transcript from the police interview of a different character, yet each interview was rambling and each character avoided answering any of the questions so that what actually happened never really comes to light and no one seems worried or upset in any way by being held hostage at gun point. It just felt like reading nonsense.
The writing itself is too silly, too jaunty, to full of whimsy and didn’t match the depressing nature of each character’s life. It felt like it was inappropriately making light of the character’s struggle, like telling a joke “too soon” after an accident and it just isn’t funny. And the third-person point of view made the whole thing unenjoyable to read, in my opinion.
I don’t usually write reviews this negative but a ridiculously large amount of people rave about this author that I am not worried my review will hurt this book in any way, rather I am hoping to reach a few outliers like myself who just don’t see the appeal in this writer who has always come across as trying too hard in my opinion.