A robbery- wait, but not quite. A bank robber, but not who you expect. An accidental hostage situation. Aggressively unhelpful witnesses. A nervous eater who devours a whole lime, pith and all. Bumbling cops. Feisty old ladies. Sounds fun, yes?
It is fun! There is a solid farce at the core of this story. Misunderstandings, misdirection, and missed connections fly in and out of quickly slamming doors. A manically wound player piano would not be out of place in the apartment where our hostages and the robber are freaking each other out. The action is silly, the dialogue is zippy, and failures to communicate allow further nonsense to flourish….
We can’t just have something nice. A fun little farce gets bogged down with heaping scoops of “Very Special Episode” treacle. I often enjoy when characters have unsuspected links to one another, but the links that connect these folks are tied up in sweaty knots. Backman goes to extreme lengths to LOST-style loop everyone together, and more than not they are bound by tragedy. In this case, they are all tied to the same tragedy, and many are at risk of succumbing to a similar fate.
Even with a beloved Khalil Gibran quote (despite not giving credit to Gibran in the text, of course) I couldn’t feel anything meaningful for these characters because I was not allowed to feel on my own! Backman provides a constant barrage of instagram-inspo worthy platitudes on the importance of- well- everything. Marriage, parenthood, death, life, loneliness, anxiety- it’s all VERY important and VERY deep. It’s all VERY difficult, but that’s why it’s SO important. Blegh.
Backman makes solid commentary around loneliness and anxiety, but things that could feel comforting or empowering end up sloshing about in a mess of Chicken Soup for the Soul. While I did enjoy the farce, and many moments did have me truly laughing out loud, I will not be foraging further into any more Backman.