Friday, February 5, 2021

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Anxious People
by Fredrik Backman
Translated by Neil Smith
Published September 2020 by Atria Books
Source: checked out from my local library

Publisher's Summary:
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.

My Thoughts:
Fredrik Backman has the ability to write about incredibly heavy themes with a light touch and sense of humor that never fails to have me laughing and crying, sometimes on the same page. His writing is uncomplicated and yet says so much. His characters are ridiculous, flawed, and some are downright unlikable. But Backman clearly loves his characters and readers can't help but care about them and reminds us that we are all connected.
"...most of us remain strangers, we never know what we do to each other, how your life is affected by mine."
As with so many books, communication plays a big role in this book, what we say that we shouldn't, what we don't say that we should. It's about the communication between married couples, therapists and patients, fathers and sons, and even strangers. Here again, Backman plays this both humorously and with a feeling of sadness.
"The other one said they'd started to hate each other after an argument that, as far as Jim could understand, started when they were unable to find a juicer in a color that reflected them both as individuals but also as a couple. That was when they realized that they couldn't live together another minute longer, and now they hated each other."

"It's so hard to find the words when all you really want to say is: "I can see you're hurting."

So many of the characters in this book come to see that others are hurting but can't find the words to say it. The saving grace in Backman's books is that they almost always find other ways to show that they see it and reach out to help.  

This is my third book by Backman and each of them has had a certain sense of mystery to them but this is by far the most complicated. It is a slow reveal that makes readers rethink assumptions they've made along the way, about the plot and the characters. 

I used to do posts periodically that I called Book Gems. I haven't done one in a while but I've saved so many quotes from this book that I think it's time to pick that up again. There were so many things that spoke to me about parenthood, being an adult, and about siblings. And so many things that were just too funny not to share. 

I raced through this book and wanted to start it all over again. Even knowing all of the revels and how it all ends up, I think I'd enjoy it nearly as much the second time. Clearly, this one's going on my favorite reads of the year list, where I expect to still find it in December. 


  1. I finally got a copy of this one. Book Gems. I love it when so many stand out in a read.

  2. I think you'll really enjoy it. I raced through it, as I do with all of Backman's books.

  3. I haven't read a Fredrik Backman book in years. I have so many to read to catch up, and yet what you say about his writing is exactly how I remember his books that I did read and what I loved about them. Glad that this is a favorite!