FICTION

Anxious People

Atria. Sept. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9781501160837. $28. F
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In this latest from the author whose string of international hits began with A Man Called Ove, bossy bank director Zara, troubled husband-and-wife Roger and Anna-Lena, expecting lesbian parents Julia and Ro, charming 80-year-old Estelle, and a near-naked man wearing a bunny head all have their reasons for showing up at an open house on New Year’s Eve, even as an inept bank robber rushes in and inadvertently becomes a hostage taker. This situation attracts the attention of a bumbling father-and-son police team who emerge in the end as gentle heroes but are initially stymied upon leading the hostages to safety: The bank robber is not among them. Cutting back and forth in time, the tight-knit, surprise-filled narrative slowly unravels this mystery while revealing the poignant backstories of both hostages and hostage taker, even as rattled nerves lead to some very funny exchanges. Meanwhile, the story of a suicide wrought by economic extremis quietly frames the action, unexpectedly tying together characters, and the brisk, absorbing action prompts meditation on marriage, parenting, responsibility, and global economic pressures.
VERDICT Comedy, drama, mystery, and social study, this novel is undefinable except for the sheer reading pleasure it delivers. Highly recommended.

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