I’ll Read Anything: ‘Anxious People’

The book that will make you laugh, cry and everything in between.

graphic+of+a+woman+reading+next+to+a+stack+of+books

Emery Little

I’ll Read Anything delivers honest reviews on reads from your trusty Life staffers (Hustler Multimedia/Emery Little)

Christine Moser, Staff Writer

As Vanderbilt students, there’s one thing we all have in common—we’re nerds. Don’t start internally battling with me on this just yet, odds are every one of us can look back nostalgically to our glory days as middle-school high achievers and remember when we used to pick up fiction books and genuinely enjoy reading them. As the Life Staff, we’re on a quest to find that feeling again, and that starts with picking up a book. Our staffers (with various literary interests and preferences) will be churning through novels of their own and publishing their candid reviews in the Hustler’s newest series: “I’ll Read Anything.” Read on to find a book that’s worthwhile and embrace your middle school nerd again (minus the braces).

 

What happens when a bank robber breaks into an apartment open house and holds eight people hostage? 

Fredrik Backman’s novel “Anxious People” takes place in a Swedish town, in which a recently divorced parent decides to rob a bank so she can afford to keep custody over her children. After discovering the bank is cashless, she has no other option but to flee the site of the crime and run into the apartment complex next door—where there just so happens to be an apartment open house taking place. Naturally, she holds everyone captive.

Hardcover edition of “Anxious People” by Fredrik Backman c. 2019 (First Atria Books/Fredrik Backman)

The eight characters in the apartment are strange and peculiar individuals who could not be more different from one another. The captives include: a self-absorbed banker, a crazy real-estate agent, a couple who disagrees about everything, a couple who flips apartments to save their marriage and an 87-year-old woman. Throughout the novel, these unlikely acquaintances slowly start to learn more about each other, becoming friends, and we as readers enjoy their company as well. The characters are so strange, but still lovable because of their own anxieties, insecurities and problems that mirror our own.

Backman makes a number of unique narrative choices to draw us into his story. His third-person narration gives the reader the opportunity to understand all characters equally, without any bias to cloud the reader’s perspective. Additionally, the novel bounces back and forth between different time periods and different settings, which gives us many perspectives at once. At first, the non-linear plot made it a little confusing for me to understand and follow along, but I quickly overcame this initial confusion. 

As I started to learn more about the characters and uncover more of the mystery, I fell more and more in love with the book—almost as if Backman held me hostage with his prose alongside the attendees of the open house. With unexpected twists and turns that keep you on the edge of your seat, nothing in this novel is as it seems. Backman uses countless shocking reveals to remind us that there is always more to the story of an unfamiliar person. 

Not only did I love the message behind “Anxious People,” I also loved the comedy that Backman used in his writing. Although there are serious and emotional topics discussed in this novel, humor is used to make this novel a little lighter, which helps the emotional moments hit even harder. I laughed out loud at the hostages’ witty banter, but there were also times where I was on the verge of tears at their deeply relatable stories—truly a whirlwind of emotions. 

Overall, “Anxious People” was amazing. It reminded me the importance of kindness, love and compassion, but it also affirms that anxiety is fundamental to the human experience. No matter how big or how small, we all have our own anxieties that we face. “Anxious People” teaches us that we never know just what is disquieting the lives of our peers, and the importance of sympathy in every interaction.

 

★★★★★