BOOK REVIEW: Anxious People by Fredrik Backman


Title: Anxious People
Author: Fredrik Backman
Publication: July 6, 2021
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 352

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SYNOPSIS: (From Goodreads)

This is a story about a hostage drama. But more than that, it’s a story about idiots. That’s why, from the very outset, I need to say that it is always very easy to declare people idiots, but only if you forget that it is also almost always idiotically difficult to be human.

When a failed bank robber escapes into an apartment filled with people during an open house, a group of six strangers are suddenly forced to get to know one another quickly and under extreme circumstances. But what will be the result?

In captivity we meet Roger and Anna-Lena, a recently retired couple who are on a manic hunt for fixer-uppers because they don’t know how to fix their own marriage. They have the distinction of shopping at every Ikea in Sweden—and those are some of the most romantic moments they ever shared. Then there is Zara, a wealthy director of a bank who has never cared for poor people or their problems (and isn’t shy about saying so). But when tragedy strikes in her life, she becomes addicted to visiting real-estate open houses to see how the middle-classes live—and possibly to find a suitable place to commit suicide. Julia and Danijela are a young lesbian couple with a newborn baby who can’t agree on anything. Their opposite and idiosyncratic home preferences are making them increasingly anxious about their chances of spending a lifetime together. And Estelle, an eighty-year-old woman who has lived long enough to be unimpressed by some bank robber waving a gun in her face. Despite the story she tells them all, Estelle hasn’t really come to the apartment to view it for her daughter, and her husband really isn’t outside parking the car.

As police surround the premises and television channels are broadcasting live, the pressure of an increasingly tense situation mounts, causing each person to reveal more and more about themselves to each other. Before long, the robber must decide which is the more terrifying prospect: going out to face the police, or staying in the apartment with this group of impossible people.


Frederik Backman is so well known and I have enjoyed some of his previous work, so I was ready when my book club selected Anxious People for our February book.

Full disclosure, the first time I started to read this, I only made it about 60 pages in before I had to put it down. I was not sure I was going to be able to read it. Fortunately, I did decide to give it another go and flipped to the audio version and tried again. The book has a lot of characters and as you learn about them you really learn to love them. I quite enjoyed Zara and her story. I also felt there was a lot of emotion around each character and their back story and I feel like that was definitely the point of the story. There was humor mixed in and that lightened some of the heavier moments.

My biggest issue with this book had nothing to do with the story itself. It was more the way the story was told. The way this story jumped around reminded me of ADHD unmedicated. The thoughts jumped around so much, especially in the beginning, that it made me really confused and anxious. That is the reason I had to put down the book the first time. That vibe continued on throughout the book with the story jumping around constantly. It was not only jumping from before the hostage situation to after the hostage situation, but also between characters currently and their backstories. It was just a bit much and at times, very hard to keep up with.

With that, I originally was going to give this book a two, but the story itself and the feelings I felt reading it brought it up to a three. I will definitely read more from Backman because he’s written so many really great books and I am sure I will love the next one.

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