Like a few of my previous reviews on this website, the book I am reviewing today came on my radar through bookstagram where it was quite popular and received good reviews. Additionally, a movie based on Fredrick Backman’s novel ‘A Man Called Ove’ was one of my father’s favorite movies since he has seen it. I have not seen it nor read the novel. However, after reading ‘Anxious People’ I am not sure that Backman’s writing style and outlook on life is the right fit for me. Overall, while I was reading this novel the only descriptions I could think of was r/im14andthisisdeep and ‘this is so boomer of him’. Some overall messages of the novel are fine, but I felt like there was just so many attempts of reinventing the wheel that I rolled my eyes quite a few times.
The novel is consisting of several stories that all come together one way or another towards the end. The big event is a failed bank robbery and the father-son duo of policemen trying to figure it all out. This meant that there was so many characters that it was almost impossible to give them depth and development and I could honestly describe so many of them in a few descriptive words. After a while, I simply could not care about them as with a few notable exceptions, they all come across as incredibly obnoxious and ridiculously incompetent. The plot of the novel made my first impression of them negative and I simply could not get rid of that impression even after I got some back stories and the explanations for their behaviour. I know that they are supposed to be presented as human and flawed, but I honestly just found them quite annoying and would not want to be around them at all. They do have development and change in the course of the novel, but I felt like it was all very superficial and forced. All the characters experience some big epiphany during the novel that was just not realistic at all.
The plot of the novel is fine and I do think that Backman’s writing style suits it well. However, I did not like the attempts of the author to be relatable or quirky in his writing. He makes so many generalizing statements about life and internet and generation gap I struggled to find an original thought that was not before discussed somewhere on the internet, just better. I found his depiction of one of the rare twenty-something year old in the book as a babbling baboon simply caring about celebrity gossip and other people’s misery quite frankly offensive. Like I said, the plot is fine, but it feels like if falls into second plan so that Backman could have room to preach at us. Some plot twists worked well enough for me, but some were just so obvious from the start that Backman might have as well told us from the start. I understand that the plot is set in a small town and that there is a possibility that people know each other or have run across each other previously, but ‘coincidences’ and the way everybody is connected was borderline ridiculous. At the end, everything is wrapped with a nice little bow on top, that I felt somebody will come at me and scream ‘happy ending. Yay!”
The novel deals with some heavy topics, such as illness, death, suicide, drug addiction etc. I did not care too much for how those topics were handled in the novel. Again, I think that Backman was so focused on writing a positive book that he did not dwell too much on the effects of those issues on families and individual people. I like that he presented going to therapy as something positive that should be normal, but I am not sure if the conversations were realistic at all. On the other hand, talk about trauma or mental health issues are just mentioned, but not really discussed in detail. As one of the characters had something incredibly horryfing happen to them, I expected way more of that and way less ‘this generation sucks, and we call people from Stockholm idiots, haha”
At the end, I was left quite disappointed with this book. It took me a few days to read it as it was not too challenging or difficult to get through, but I did not really get anything out of it or enjoyed it too much. The plot is just fine and the writing style decent, but the characters and the overall philosophy of the novel stole enjoyment from me. I scored this one 2/5 on Goodreads.
What are your thoughts on this book? Do you agree with me or did you really like it? Did you read something else by Fredrick Backman? Let me know!