[Anxious People]: A Review

Happy mid November, my friends! 

Can you believe we are almost to Thanksgiving in the US? Time is flying and it has been so fun to celebrate everything happening this fall. 

Today I am excited to share a review of Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. My book club picked this book for our monthly read in September and I was really excited. I have only read A Man Called Ove and remember it being fantastic — unlike anything I’ve read before or since. This was another unique and powerfully told story about the anxiousness in all of us and how we can really come to understand each other’s stories.

This was a hard review to write because I didn’t want to give anything away. And everything is so intricate and connected in this story. There are some truly incredible twists and unexpected connections. I don’t want to allude to any of them. So please know that while I feel this review is a bit shorter than I usually write, this book has so much to discuss and experience.

Note: I would definitely categorize Backman’s books as adult fiction. There are several mature themes and issues that are not for a young audience.

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Book Summary: “A poignant, charming novel about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined

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.

Humorous, compassionate, and wise, Anxious People is an ingeniously constructed story about the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope—the things that save us, even in the most anxious of times.

No one writes like Fredrik Backman. The way he crafts a sentence (and the way his translators keep his tone and voice) is incredible. I’m still thinking about his description of social media and what’s underneath the greener grass on the other side of the fence. He mentions details that no one would notice but are also so obvious once he points them out. We see what he wants us to see. And miss what he wants us to miss. I also enjoyed the police reports of the interviews interspersed with the narration of the events and flash backs to important moments in the characters’ lives. Everything is so interwoven. It’s a fun ride to see how it all fits. Backman often has witty asides, one liners bursting with wisdom, dry humor, unique descriptions and engaging dialogue. I love experiencing his stories through his eyes.

This story is full of so many great, well developed characters. I loved learning about policemen Jack and Jim — their relationship, their history, what they think they care about and what their priorities really are. I also really liked Lara-Mara and Roger — how do you live with regrets? how do you express love when it feels gone and how do you find it again? Estelle was hilarious and wise at the same time — how do you move forward with your grief? how do you remember those who you’ve lost? What makes a house a home? Zara was so interesting because even she thinks she’s someone she isn’t — why does it matter if you like what you do? how important are other people? do you need to rely on anyone else? Also loved the complexities of the bank robber’s life and the way they are presented to us. So many connected and well developed characters.

I loved the storytelling with details being added gradually. We begin the story thinking we know exactly who the bank robber is. And then we totally don’t! It’s so interesting to see how our assumptions as readers guide how we see this hostage situation — from the details of what happened to assumptions about people and backgrounds. As the details start connecting, I couldn’t believe how things change and yet how much Backman relates about what it means to be human. The journey is incredible as we discover–with the characters–the answers to intriguing questions like what is truth? And why are we so quick to assume everyone tells the truth all the time? So interesting to piece the backgrounds of the characters together and what really happened up in that apartment with the hostages.

Backman makes me think hard about life, about what really matters, about family and friends and arguments and pizza. He helps me see that some things matter and some things don’t. And all the unspoken but understood things between me and the people I love most. This book is not one you can just read and move on from. It will stick with you. 

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What books have stuck with you long after you finished them?
Any Backman fans out there? Which are your favorite novels by him?

6 thoughts on “[Anxious People]: A Review

  1. I just bought A man called Ove and can’t wait to read it! I have already watched the movie though but loved it so I think I’m going to like the book too. Anxious people also sounds very interesting so I might pick it up too. Also I’m a little bit embarrassed I haven’t read any of his books yet because I am Swedish like him, haha.

    Anyways, great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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