Anxious People“A bank robbery. A hostage drama.  A stairwell of police officers on their way to storm an apartment. It was easy to get to this point, much easier than you might think. All it took was one single really bad idea.”

Anxious People is the story of a bank robber and the bank robber’s hostages. Or maybe it’s not. Anxious People is a story about suicide and unexpected connections. Or maybe it’s not. Anxious People is about the mistakes we make in life and the importance of empathy and forgiveness. And that is what Anxious People is about.

But there is a bank robber. A bumbling bank robber, who tries to rob a cashless bank for precisely six thousand five hundred Kronors (roughly $780). The bank teller, whose name is London and who is a miserable person and has no friends, asks the bank robber (who is armed by the way), “Are you, like, totally stupid?” Before the bank robber, who is having second thoughts about the robbery, can answer, London advises that “Look, I’m going to call the cops now!”

The bank robber runs out of the bank and into the nearest building, up the stairs and to the top floor. An apartment door is open for an open house and the bank robber enters. So begins the hostage situation.

The hostage situation is being addressed by a father and son police duo, Jim and Jack. While they are trying to figure out how to handle the hostage situation, a more experienced team from Stockholm is on its way—the ultimate embarrassment for the duo.  Jack and Jim seem a bit incompetent.  Jim, Jack’s father spends most of his time worrying over Jack’s safety. Jim’s wife, Jack’s mother, had died and they are both still grieving.

Ten years earlier, as a teenager, Jack had encountered a man standing on a bridge. Jack tried to talk him down but the man jumped anyway. The man had lost all of his money in a financial crisis and the banks were unwilling to loan him more. A week later, Jack saw a teenage girl at the same bridge. He tackled her and prevented her from jumping. It was his desire to help people that led him to being a policeman.

Back to the hostage situation. The hostages are an eclectic crew. There is Zara, a wealthy banker who just goes to open houses for sport and has deep seated issues with the career she has chosen. She regularly sees a psychologist, Nadia, and their interactions are difficult at best.

Then there is Anna-Lena and Roger, an older couple who buy apartments, renovate them and sell them. They have a unique approach to obtaining the properties they choose and are very competitive with anyone else in the open houses.

Or and Julia are a young same sex couple expecting their first child and looking for a home. They seem to fight constantly.

There is elderly Estelle, whose husband Knut is out parking the car and never arrives at the open house.  And finally, the open house includes the slightly wacky real estate agent and a man dressed like a rabbit.

During the course of the hostage situations we learn a lot about each of these people and we see them learn about each other and develop relationships. There are lots of twists and turns and ultimately when the police enter the apartment (after the hostages order and eat pizza), the bank robber is nowhere to be found, but there is blood all over the living room floor.

Next come a series of interviews and flashbacks, where we learn even more about each of the characters.

The novel is written in sort of a glib, irreverent style, but I really liked this book. It is truly a tale of empathy and kindness even in the most difficult situations. The characters reflect real life issues, including parent child relationships, romantic relationships, professional doubts, grief and aging. The novel provides insight into the possibilities when people try to understand each other and work together. I highly recommend this novel. You can reserve it at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.

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