Book Reviews

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman- a heartwarming comedy of idiots

Anxious people by Backman is the story of a bank robbery, a hostage situation but mostly it is a soiree of anxious people who show us how the feeling and emotion of anxiousness persists in every human being. How it renders us sleepless sometimes, at others we put ourselves under the radar of questioning. Questions we ask ourselves and find no answers to. Backman produces a wonderful philosophy of life through this book- by being kind and imbibing compassion we can help ourselves and others in need of it. The most pleasing trait of the book is how Backman infuses familiarity into his characters; uncannily similar and his sentences which exude relatability of the highest order.

When he says- “ Unfortunately I think most people would still get more sympathy from their colleagues and bosses at work if they show up looking rough one morning and say ‘I’m hungover’ than if they say ‘I am suffering from anxiety’. But I think we pass people in the street every day who feel the same as you and I, many of them just don’t know what it is.”- he tries to portray anxiety as a sentiment existent in every human, the only difference being the degree in which it exists and what it does to a person. In the same sentence he also unabashedly tries to state how much the term is not paid attention to. In his cult heartwarming writing style, he manages to win hearts once again by enabling in his readers the simple sentiment of empathy.

A bank robber attempts to rob a cashless bank and ends up taking eight people as hostages who were present for an apartment viewing event. An estate agent, a couple obsessed by the fanatics of apartment viewings, a pregnant woman and her partner, a rabbit, a woman who is undergoing therapy, and two police officers who share the relationship of father and son form the core of the book around which the story revolves. As the two police officers start interviewing the hostages after they have been let out by the bank robber, the reader experiences bouts of entertainment in the humorous accounts that follow suit. While in the hostage, the hostages are seen forming a camaraderie with each other, exposing their deepest secrets and anxieties in the form of conversations. Backman’s writing ties the sentiment and essence of the book together giving us something to relish and ponder over. His commendable skill of presenting a story that is bound to engage with the reader is incredible.

While the characters are bizarre, giving “anxious” a human face, the plot is exciting and refreshing with thrilling spikes showcasing the turn of events. He not only writes of the anxiety that seeps in through the fissures of a person but also the economic system. Capitalism and consumerism being the bait. His poignant writing doused with witticism permeates our inner-self as we read about life, death, parenthood, marriage, and relationships in his rather convincing tone of words. He states the obvious and sometimes courageously lays bare the factual.

The book is sure to leave you teary-eyed, even heartbroken but it also acts as a soothing balm of comfort leaving us with words and truth we want to hear as it addresses a notable emotion of anxiety. I wouldn’t argue with him on his statement of humans being “idiotically difficult” rather succumb by a humble nod. Because we are. Aren’t we?

Every page entertaining and almost every sentence “truth of life”, this book is a must-read. For a long time, I kept recommending A man called Ove to friends and family and for years. And now this is one such book that will bear its name on the tip of my tongue. It is recommended reading in today’s time as most people now are learning to acknowledge the emotional wave of anxiety.

Thank you to the publisher Penguin India for the review copy.