Once again, Swedish author Fredrik Backman allows us inside some very Anxious People. We probably don’t like them when we first meet them. But as in A Man Called Ove, and Britt-Marie Was Here, once you get to know them, they are really pretty nice. As he says, “Sometimes two strangers only need one thing in common to find each other sympathetic.”
Backman’s ability to let us inside his characters’ personal histories is a delight. Although at first I wasn’t exactly captivated by the disjointed style, the in and out of time and characters’ heads. But, because I’ve read and loved his books before, I trusted that it would grow on me. It did.
This story is about a first-time bank robber and a few hostages, but the gentle humor, surprising plot twists, and the unexpectedly satisfying redemptions won me over. So here are a few quotes that I highlighted to share with you.
On the complexities of parenting:
“Parents are defined by their mistakes.”
“Because that was a parent’s job: to provide shoulders. Shoulders for your children to sit on when they’re little so they can see the world, then stand on when they get older so they can reach the clouds, and sometimes lean against whenever they stumble and feel unsure. They trust us, which is a crushing responsibility, because they haven’t yet realized that we don’t actually know what we’re doing.”
“That’s an impossible thing for sons to grasp and a source of shame for fathers to have to admit: that we don’t want out children to pursue their own dreams or walk in our footsteps. We want to walk in their footsteps while they pursue our dreams.”
“That’s the weirdest thing about being someone’s parent. Not to just a bank robber parent, but any parent: that you are loved in spite of everything that you are.”
“Addicts are addicted to their drugs, and families are addicted to hope.”
On the many forms of love:
“Your mom was right, the ones who make you laugh last a lifetime…”
“You love each other until you can’t live without each other. And even if you stop loving each other for a little while, you can’t…you can’t live without each other.”
“Have you ever held a three-year-old boy by the hand on the way home from preschool? …You’re never more important that you are then.”
On being a good human:
“We can’t change the world, and a lot of the time we can’t even change people. No more than one bit at a time. So we do what we can to help whenever we get a chance, sweetheart. We save those we can. We do our best. Then we try to find a way to convince ourselves that that will just have to…be enough. So we can live with our failures without drowning.”
“God doesn’t protect people from knives, sweetheart. That’s why God gave us other people, so we can protect each other.”
“They say that a person’s personality is the sum of their experiences. But that isn’t true, at least not entirely, because if our past was all that defined us, we’d never be able to put up with ourselves. We need to be allowed to convince ourselves that we’re more than the mistake we made yesterday. That we are all of our next choices too, all of our tomorrows.”
In these troubling times, when people are so quick to judge others on the most superficial of qualities, Backman reminds us to look for what we share. Our doubts, our struggles, our hopes, our dreams show us that we aren’t really alone and that each of us deserves just a little bit of grace. Recommend.
Have you read this or others by Backman? What did you think?