Micro-Review #138: Anxious People

by Fredrik Backman

If you’ve read the brilliant A Man Called Ovie, resist the temptation to compare the two novels. This story about a hostage-taking at a realtor’s home showing is a different beast. Who’s our mystery hostage taker? How did he/she/they elude the police? These questions intrigue, but they don’t carry the freight. The real draw is the array of characters, all of whom, to varying degrees, live up (or down) to the book’s title.

The story is quirky and life-affirming. The writing is at times hilarious and at other times overbaked (maybe too much of a good thing?). Despite the narrative’s faint, developing sense of teachy repetition, the chance to spend 300 pages with people who are probably more like us than we might want to admit is rare, because we still want to spend the time. This is a good book about real people—a deft, breezy bit of humanistic optimism.

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