“Anxious People” by Fredrik Backman – Review

By: Tory Tanguay

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of “A Man Called Ove” and “writer of astonishing depth” (The Washington Times) comes a poignant comedy 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.


I was drawn to this title because I am, in fact, an anxious person. What better book for me to read? This would either be a book I would enjoy or a book that would set me off on an anxiety attack. Luckily, the first was true.

Looking at real estate properties doesn’t usually end up in a life-or-death situation but that is what happens at the beginning of this novel. Backman weaves an intricate tale regarding an eclectic cast of characters that are all involved in a hostage situation. An unintentional hostage situation with the worst hostages ever. Each hostage comes with a history of emotional baggage, past hurts, and secrets that are revealed as the story progresses. In the end, each one finds that they’re not the only person who needs rescuing.

We have two couples, Roger and Anna-Lena and Ro and Julia. The former two are a retired couple looking for their next flip while the latter are looking to purchase a home for their expanding family. Zara, a well-to-do banker just came to this open house to see how the other half lives. Estelle, an elderly woman, may or may not be checking out this apartment for her daughter. Then of course, there’s the bank robber, whose day (and life) is just not going as planned. Throw in a father-son cop duo investigating the whole thing and you have the makings of a plot with twists and turns that will make you laugh, cry, and think.

The one thing that I loved about this novel is that everyone and everything is connected in some way. The reader is left with the idea that choices that we make in this world in some way affect someone or something else in this world, sometimes without us even realizing it. And indeed, we all could use a little rescuing. The saying “no man is an island” kept popping up in my head over and over because whether we want to be or not, we’re all connected with the rest of humanity.

Beware, however, fellow reader, that although this book may be laugh-out-loud funny at times, it is also a heavy book with heavy themes. Content warnings include suicide and suicidal thoughts/ ideation plus lots of deep emotions. If you’re uncomfortable with these types of themes, then this book may not be for you.

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