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Anxious People by Fredrik Backman – Book Review

Fredrik Backman’s newest release titled Anxious People is a complete delight. Read on to see why I fell in love with it!

I received an advanced digital copy of this book from Atria Books via NetGalley; all opinions are my own. This post contains some affiliate links that may earn me a commission if you purchase through them.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman – Book ReviewAnxious People by Fredrik Backman
Published by Simon and Schuster on September 8, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Literary, Humorous, Friendship
Pages: 352
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Instant #1 New York Times Bestseller
A People Book of the Week, Book of the Month Club selection, #1 Indie Next Pick, and Best of Fall in Good Housekeeping, PopSugar, The Washington Post, New York Post, Shondaland, CNN, and more!

[A] quirky, big-hearted novel… Wry, wise, and often laugh-out-loud funny, it’s a wholly original story that delivers pure pleasure.” —People
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove comes a charming, poignant 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 their own marriage. There’s a wealthy bank director who has been too busy 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 motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.

Rich with Fredrik Backman’s “pitch-perfect dialogue and an unparalleled understanding of human nature” (Shelf Awareness), 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 times.


This is one of those reviews where you want to shout out loud how wonderful a book is – but at the same time, you don’t want to give away too much, as I think part of the fun is going into a book a little blind.

This is the story about a bank robbery that didn’t happen, thanks to a calamity of errors and desperation, and a hostage situation that really wasn’t, due to a misunderstanding. Actually, much of the book is about just that – misunderstandings, missteps, miscommunication, presumptions, all related to anxieties of one kind or another.

As the younger of two police officers interviews the witnesses and hostage victims, my first thoughts were “These people aren’t anxious. They’re idiots.” But Bachman plays on our preconceptions, over and over.

“The whole thing is a complicated, unlikely story. Perhaps that’s because what we think stories are about often isn’t what they’re about at all. This for instance, might not actually be the story of a bank robbery, or an apartment viewing, or a hostage drama. Perhaps, it isn’t even a story of idiots. Perhaps this story is about a bridge.”

Each of the hostage victims has a story of their own, their own demons and worries and pain. As their individual stories unfolded, my opinions shifted from “this person is an idiot” to one of sympathy and sadness. That, in my opinion, is one of the kinds of magic that Backman works in this book. He has a wonderful way of working your emotions, and capturing the human spirit. And then making you laugh out loud, before you can get too deep in the sadness of a situation. He really stretches your emotions like a rubber band. Or puts you on a roller coaster. I’m not sure which analogy is most fitting.

He also has a incredible gift when it comes to tackling serious issues and keeping a story lighthearted and relatable at the same time. I found my heart tightening in one scene, and then I was snort-laughing in the next. He really strikes a wonderful balance.

This is a character driven novel, and it tackles the issues and challenges (and idiosyncrasies) of each of the characters, and how they are dealing with them. He creates these seemingly ridiculous or annoying characters, and then without even realizing it, he pulls sympathy for them (they you never thought you’d have) from you, with what feels like a literal sigh. “Oh, I think I was wrong about him/her.”

Backman works magic in his plotting, and details that you thought you were paying attention to suddenly come together in ways you weren’t expecting. That’s my tip. Pay attention to the details. You still won’t see some things coming, and it’s beautiful.

His writing has a very “stream of conscious” feel. It’s quirky, a fast prattle at times, and there were moments where the flood of words made ME feel anxious enough that I needed to slow down my reading. The pacing felt quick in those narrative moments, even if what was happening was unhurried.

Anxious People will probably be one of my favorite books this year. It’s quirky, clever, and smart – and it really was a rollercoaster of a book, with twists and unexpected drops and just good fun.

For another book with quirky characters that will make you think and feel and laugh, check out Why Stuff Matters by Jen Waldo.

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