A month ago, I suffered an anxiety attack.
It was the first one that manifested itself physically but, in my head, I went through it a million little times.
So, I disappeared. I let go of everything that had helped me stayed afloat in this uncertain year and prepared to start all over. And then, I discovered this book.
This is not a story of how a book saved me from myself. Because as much as I believe in words, I don’t think I can be cured, mental illnesses don’t work like that. We can’t save each other, but we can let them know when they are drowning.
So no, this book didn’t cure my anxiety.
But it helped me understand it.
And there’s nothing more beautiful than a human being able to do that for another.
Anxious People by Fredrik Bäckman
Author: Fredrik Bäckman
Publication date: September 8th, 2020
Main characters: Zara; Anna-Lena & Roger; Ro & Julia, Estelle; the bank robber; Jac
POV: Multiple POVs
Sequel, number in series, or stand-alone? Stand-alone
Previous book: –
Following book: –
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix up their own marriage. There’s a wealthy banker who has been too busy making money to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything, from where they want to live to how they met in the first place. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.
Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises, these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in a motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.
This novel, as I think all works of fiction partly are, is an introspection journey disguised as an adventure. In this case, a hostage drama and a mystery. It never turns out to be what the synopsis tells us it will, and I think that’s beautiful, in a way.
So yes, there are mysteries in this book, police interviews, hostages, flashy guns, and breathtaking revelations but, don’t let them distract you from what this book really is about.
A story about a bank-robbery, turned into a hostage-drama, but not really, because we are all idiots standing on bridges, hoping to get to the other side. And like all fiction, it’s a story about life.
Throughout this novel, we meet the different people involved in the hostage drama; from the bank-robber to the policemen standing outside, up to the therapist that will be there for the victims, and all the people these ones have in common. All these people representing different sides of the same pain. Sometimes in our chests, others in our heads, all of them in our hearts. When you find it so hard to breathe that you don’t know when you’ll be able to see the light of the sun again. Because in the end, even if we don’t overcome our fears, we carry on with our things, because life, just like friends and time, doesn’t stop for anybody, and we can’t allow it to leave us behind. We run from our fears, until we stumble upon another person who’d been running too.
And right then, we realize that all this time, we hadn’t been running from them, but with them. So, we unconsciously pour all of our anxieties in other people, and they do the same with us.
And hope we don’t drown to together.
This might pretend to be a story about a hostage drama, but I think it’s a story about bridges. Those that connect us with each other, even if we don’t ever get to know it all, they are there. Because at some point in our lives, we stood on the railing. Perhaps for only a second, maybe, it lasted years. No matter the time, the indecision of where our next step will land remains the same. One way or another, we are on one side of the bridge, suffering the same anxieties and fears, millions of people finding it hard to breathe when they haven’t had a cigarette in their lives when everything feels so big and incomprehensible, that you don’t know how you used to fit so much information in your head before.
The same fears, and yet, we’ll never meet each other and maybe, we’ll never do.
But what this book taught me, it’s that perhaps, that’s alright too. It doesn’t matter, because even if we don’t ever identify everyone, we are still there. People need other people.
To be the beacon, to be the path, to be nothing but a mirror, to show us we are not alone.
But most importantly, we need ourselves.
So, this book didn’t cure my anxiety, and I don’t think anything ever will.
But that will never keep me from trying to live another day.
Even when I can’t breathe.
I guess that we all mistakes from time to time, even the eventual hostage drama.
“But I think we pass people in the street every day who feel the same as you and I, many of them just don’t know what it is. Men and women going around for months having trouble breathing and seeing doctor after doctor because they think there’s something wrong with their lungs. All because it’s so damn difficult to admit that something else is… broken. That it’s an ache in our soul, invisible lead weights in our blood, an indescribable pressure in our chest. Our brains are lying to us, telling us we’re going to die. But there’s nothing wrong with our lungs, Zara. We’re not going to die, you and I.”
I think that is all I have for you today but, if you are interested in my rants, you can follow me on Goodreads, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, where I like to get a little goofier. And if you want more content about books, stay tuned to the blog!
And remember, even if sometimes feels like it, you´re not alone, there´s always someone rooting for you. But if you feel that no one out there is, I would happily be that person, here´s my email if you ever need someone to talk to, I will respond. We need each other: firstname.lastname@example.org