Anxious People

Fredrik Backman, trans. from the Swedish by Neil Smith. Atria, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-1-5011-6083-7
A diverse assortment of Swedes gets caught in an unlikely hostage situation in Backman’s witty, lighthearted romp (after Us Against You). On the day before New Year’s Eve, in a “not particularly large or noteworthy town,” a desperate parent attempts to rob a bank in order to provide for two young children. After the police arrive, the amateur stickup artist flees and stumbles into an apartment’s open house. The attendees, including a heavily pregnant, first-time home-buying lesbian couple; an apartment-flipping older couple; and Zara, an executive at another bank, become hostages. Meanwhile, father and son police officers Jim and Jack scramble into action. The appearance of a man wearing nothing but underwear and a bunny mask, hired by the flippers to sabotage the open house, adds to the drama. Backman layers the hostage scene with threads of backstory on Zara’s regret for denying a loan to a man ten years earlier, along with developments in Jack and Jim’s investigation. While the prose is chockablock with odd metaphors (“Our hearts are bars of soap that we keep losing hold of”) and a plot twist leans on societal assumptions, Backman charms with his empathetic description of the robber, who gradually earns sympathy from the hostages. This amusing send-up of contemporary Swedish society is worth a look. Agent: Tor Jonasson, Salomonsson Agency. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 04/01/2020
Release date: 09/01/2020
Genre: Fiction
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-7971-0583-3
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-9821-5524-7
Compact Disc - 978-1-7971-0582-6
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