Anxious People by Fredrik Backman 2019

I loved this book and give thanks to the two people who recommended it several months ago–a world-famous, septugenarian ghost writer of famous people’s autobiographies and the Buffalo, NY cousin who recently graduated high school.

The book made me both laugh and cry, not an easy feat for any work of fiction, but one which Backman carried off seemingly without any effort.  The premise of the book and the outcome require the suspension of reality, but on the other hand, Backman does point out that the book is about idiots, so why not.

The idiots are the person who tries to hold up a cashless bank for 6500 kroner to pay the rent and the eight hostages that are taken in a top floor apartment across the street from the bank when the bank robber flees. The hostages include a man in his underwear wearing a rabbit’s head, an anti-social banker who has panic attacks and has been carrying an unopened envelope in her purse from a man who committed suicide ten years ago, a lesbian couple one of whom is pregnant, an 87 year old woman whose dead husband is parking the car—-well, you may be starting to get the idea.  Add to this a couple of policemen in this small town who happen to be father and son.  It only gets more complicated, but it’s great fun.

As always with fiction, it’s hard to describe the book without ruining the experience for the next reader, so suffice it for me to quote Backman on page 266:  “They stared at each other, the rabbit and the three women, a diverse group of individuals, to put it mildly, huddled inside a closet an an apartment viewing that had been disrupted by the arrival of a bank robber. Stranger things had probably happened to people in the town, but not much stranger.”

This is not War & Peace, but it sure is fun, and Backman’s ultimately sunny view of life despite its vagaries, challenges, and defeats is welcome these days. Read it—you’ll laugh and maybe even tear up a bit.