Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix their own marriage. There’s a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything, from where they want to live to how they met in the first place. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.
Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.
I guess I should say that I’m a big fan of Backman’s voice and style. A BIG fan. I read My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry last month and now it’s in my top five favorite books ever. The voice in this one is phenomenal as well. Examples:
“This story is about a lot of things, but mostly about idiots.”
“Hand on heart, which of us hasn’t wanted to pull a gun after talking to a twenty-year-old?”
“The policeman clenches his teeth so hard that he looks like he’s trying to breathe through his toenails.”
Lines like that are priceless, am I right? I laughed a lot while reading this—straight through in one sitting, by the way—and I thoroughly enjoyed all the different characters and the vignettes we saw of their lives and personalities. This was not what you’d expect from a novel about a bank robbery and a hostage situation, but it is what you’d expect from Fredrik Backman: pure delight.
Fredrik Backman is a bestselling author. Anxious People is his newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.)