Since I normally enjoy Fredrik Backman’s quirky writing style, I was looking forward to reading his new release Anxious People. For the first part of the story, I wanted to rename the book Obnoxious People. Other than the two police officers, I didn’t like any of the characters. I wasn’t getting the “comical nature” of the book. Then about half-way through, the somewhat unreliable narrator gave a plot twist that changed the direction of the story. Afterward, I started to enjoy this convoluted tale more. By the end, I realized this is a life-affirming story about the goodness of people.
In a small Swedish town, a bank robber attempts to rob a bank (but only for enough money to pay rent), but the bank is cashless and the robber gets no money. The bank robber runs across the street and stumbles into an apartment viewing. The bank robber locks the door and holds the people at the viewing hostage. Eventually, the bank robber frees the hostages. When the police enter the apartment, the bank robber has vanished into thin air.
The novel starts with the hostages being interviewed by a young police officer, whose father is also his partner. The interviews are all quite difficult, and the witnesses seem like total idiots. As the story progresses, we learn the backstories of the bank robber, the hostages, the police officers, along with the psychologist of one of the hostages and the bank teller. These honest stories of ordinary, anxious people are the heart of the novel. Each of them asks themselves “What is love?” and “What would you be willing to do for love?”. Once the mystery of the disappeared bank robber is solved, the novel then provides the reader with the happily ever after stories of the characters.