“They say that a person’s personality is the sum of their experiences. But that isn’t true, at least not entirely, because if our past was all that defined us, we’d never be able to put up with ourselves. We need to be allowed to convince ourselves that we’re more than the mistakes we made yesterday. That we are all of our next choices, too, all of our tomorrows.”
This is my favorite of Backman’s books (that I’ve read) by quite a large margin.
I would describe Anxious People as “whimsical” and “playful” except that would discount the reckoning with human pain and yes, anxiety, that also fills these pages. The truth is that is all of those things, and more! Honestly, all my favorite stories in any medium don’t confine themselves to just one genre or tone, but can be incredibly funny and moving and gross and profane and profound and silly and sentimental all in the same text, from one minute to the next. And all of it adds up to something more for me than it would have been as just a “serious book” about anxiety and the consequences of bad choices, and what it does to our brains just being human and living our lives.
This will be my second book in a row that implores you to go in without really knowing anything beyond a very basic premise, which in this case could be described as “hapless bank robber accidentally takes hostages”.
I predicted several of the twists and reveals, but it was a pleasure to do so. The joy of this book does not depend on the “reveals” necessarily being surprises. In fact, for every instance in which I called a reveal, I really wanted that thing to happen, and was so, so happy when it did. I was happy for the characters and just happy in general. The pleasure in this story comes not just from the surprise of a twist well planned that will catch you off guard (there are some of those), but also in your expectations and hopes being met when you’ve figured it out in advance.
My only reservation is that I feel like some phrases and use of individual words may have been lost in translation. That’s always a downside of translation, but it was worth noting here, because I kept wondering if the English phrases being used by translator meant something different than they did in the original Swedish. The biggest example is the word SPOILERS “idiots,” which is used many times and in a variety of different ways, almost like a motif, so it wasn’t an insignificant thing to wonder if I wasn’t quite getting the meaning Backman originally was going for. I’m sure there were also subtleties I missed in Backman’s humorous use of “Stockholm” in its many variations, because I am not Swedish. Just something I was thinking while reading END SPOILERS.
I highly recommend this one, maybe even if you haven’t liked Backman’s other books.