Audiobook Review: Anxious People

Published November 17th 2020

Author: Fredrik Backman

Narrator: Marin Ireland

Audiobook Length: 9 hours 54 minutes

This is a poignant comedy about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined.

Viewing an apartment normally doesn’t turn into a life-or-death situation, but this particular open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes everyone in the apartment hostage. As the pressure mounts, the eight strangers slowly begin opening up to one another and reveal long-hidden truths.

As police surround the premises and television channels broadcast the hostage situation live, the tension mounts and even deeper secrets are slowly revealed. Before long, the robber must decide which is the more terrifying prospect: going out to face the police, or staying in the apartment with this group of impossible people.

After seeing multiple people rave about this novel, I finally got around to trying it out for myself. Anxious People was nothing like I expected, but in a good way. It is a published translation by Neil Smith from Swedish and I completed the audiobook, narrated by Marin Ireland. Smith did a fantastic job as the writing still flowed seamlessly to seem as if the story was presented in its original language. Ireland did an amazing job as a narrator as she added tons of humor and excellent distinction between the characters.

The story features eight strangers held together in a hostage situation by a bank robbery gone wrong in a small Swedish town by a 39-year-old individual the day before New Year’s Eve. There are also the police officers involved in solving the crime. Although there are lots of characters to keep track of, they are all incredibly unique and incredibly quirky. While filled with a lot of humor, there are also a lot of heartfelt moments. The ensemble cast makes this story a truly unique experience.

Each hostage has their own sub-story that the author does an excellent job of integrating into the main story. At first, everything just seems ridiculous, but over time all the pieces come together and the random bits of information all begin to make a lot more sense. The characters and the plot become a lot more than what they first seemed. The first character is the ridiculous and very over the top real estate agent. Then, there is Estelle, the nice 87-year—old woman. Next, Julia and Ro are a bickering couple who are expecting their first child. Anna-Lena and Roger are a retired couple turned apartment flippers. Next, there is Zara, the snarky middle-aged bank director. Finally, there is the mysterious character found in the bathroom wearing a rabbit head from a costume. The last two main characters are Jack and Jim, the police duo in charge of solving the case. Together, the ten of them create a hilarious story.

The writing itself will not be for everyone as it is not presented in a typical fashion that appeals to the masses. I can see why this might not be the book for everyone. As I did this on audiobook, the story captivated me as I wanted to know how this would all finally come together. At first, the book seems to be chaos as there are multiple sub-stories that all seem disconnects, but they do share a central theme. Then, there is the actual robber/hostage portion of the story that has its own plot. The characters think the others are idiots, they think themselves are idiots, and the reader thinks they are idiots. The themes of the novel go over insecurities, judgements of others and self, and, of course, anxieties. I was definitely surprised to find so much insight presented in this story based on how it all started.

Overall, I am glad that I stuck with it until the end as the beginning was very over the top. I neither loved nor hated the ending, but it did fit well with the story. The novel itself is also one I could not decide if I loved or hated it, as it was both frustrating and interesting. While filled with lots of light-hearted writing, there are a lot of heavy topics covered. It was done with finesse and I commend the author and translator for bringing it across in a very entertaining and interesting manner. This is definitely a novel that everyone should experience for themselves without taking others’ opinions into complete consideration.

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