PHOENIX (Olivia's Book Club) -- "This story is about a lot of things, but mostly about idiots," writes Fredrik Backman in "Anxious People." The acclaimed Swedish author of "Bear Town" and "A Man Called Ove," among other titles, has sold millions of books worldwide and seen his work adapted for the screen.
His most recent novel, "Anxious People," is in essence a story of a poorly attempted bank robbery, and what happens when the flailing criminal enters a real estate open house. Strangers clash and ultimately connect. Complicated histories are revealed, and in many ways, each character discovers that their assumptions about the others are wrong. Backman takes the reader on a similar journey, challenging our assumptions and surprising us as the story unfolds. What motivates these characters is rarely what you'd assume.
Strangers who look upon a landmark bridge find different meanings -- a lost love, a lost life, a defining moment of heroism, a new beginning.
The characters caught up in a criminal investigation -- some solving, others motivated to help a stranger in another way -- are brought together in a pressure cooker situation as hostages. The author takes us outside those walls to other moments in their lives and back again as they open up and realize more about each other, themselves, and discover the myriad ways in which strangers impact each other and sometimes share more than they could ever know. From loneliness to guilt, fears surrounding marriage and parenting, or a prevailing sense of disconnection, Backman's story is a character study on the many ways we all need help or understanding but often don't know how to ask for it.
Timelines in "Anxious People" jump around, and there are many characters to follow, which didn't appeal to many readers in this book club, describing the novel as "hard to get into" or not a style they'd choose again.
For me, it was funny, surprising, and in moments incredibly poignant. It made me challenge my own assumptions about people off the page after being so wrong about people on the page. I think Backman's work is deep and intriguing, and his dialogue is fantastic, I'll definitely read more of his work.