Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Title: Anxious People.
Writer(s): Fredrik Backman.
Publisher: Atria Books.
Format: Advance Review Copy.
Release Date: September 8th, 2020.
Pages: 352.
Genre(s): Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery, Humour.
ISBN13:  9781501160837.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.


Far too often in my life, I have walked through a crowd wondering about the lives of every single person around me. Where are they going? What have they got planned for their day? What was there childhood like? Have they ever been on the other side of the law? What kind of problems are they dealing with these days? That’s when I realized that sometimes we just have it easier than others. Sometimes, all we can do is be kind to everyone as we remain oblivious to their personal suffering. Author Frederik Backman (A Man Called Ove, Beartown) now returns to pull at our heartstrings with an unusual mystery-comedy that invites us to discover the bizarre and conflicted lives of a couple of strangers as circumstances unite them to an unexpected and life-changing reunion.

What is Anxious People about? During an open house event, eight anxious strangers find themselves held hostage by a bank robber who isn’t exactly up for the task. As the situation quickly defuses thanks to their naturally chatty behaviours, they end up discovering that they might have far more things in common than they thought they would. However, the arrival of the police and the media complicates their predicament. While they try and identify the culprit behind this incident, the bank robber now has to decide between facing the consequences or dealing with the psychotic personalities stuck in that apartment.

“Worst hostages ever. You’re the worst hostages ever.”

— Fredrik Backman

Let me start off by saying that this started off rough. Not only does the author actively play around with the timeline, going back and forth between the past, present, and future events, this narrative puzzle is also interspersed with witness interviews, although those verbatim are entertaining if not annoying as you watch witnesses being uncooperative and pretentious with the police, making it that much harder for readers to connect with the characters. While this isn’t a flaw in itself, it’s when you factor in the personality of each and every character that things can get complicated at first. I won’t lie that I felt emotionally drained by how obnoxious some of these characters were. Add in the fact that the author added a couple too many characters who could’ve been cut from the narrative, it was tough to really grasp how this could all work out in the end. But fret not. This author’s reputation precedes him and he wraps things up as good as anyone possibly could.

If there’s one thing that really struck me with this story is its absolute quirkiness. I couldn’t tell if it was me or these characters, but they often rubbed off me wrong with their over-eccentricity and over-zealousness. I had to suspend my disbelief to let a couple of plot elements pass but it’s the final act that really allowed this story to bloom and send its message through its exploration of various themes, from divorce to suicide. While I was on the verge of abandoning any hope for this story to pick up its pace and solve the puzzle at the heart of this comedy-mystery, the author found a way to reach deep within my heart, to grasp it softly with both hands, and to smoothly comfort me with the complexity of human nature and our ability to show kindness to strangers.

Anxious People is a quirky and captivating tale exploring the kindness of humans in our most desperate times.

Thank you Simon & Schuster Canada for this copy for review!



55 thoughts on “Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

  1. Terrific review Lashaan! I have to say that what you wrote about wondering about people’s lives when they walk past you it’s something I have often wondered about myself as well. You can even make some kind of game about it (I think I saw that in a movie sometime). As for this book, despite it’s complexity it sounds like a great story, and it’s great to hear that the final act is that made it best. Too often a final act ruins something so it’s good to hear that isn’t the case here😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Michel! Yep, it really hits your conscious hard when you start wondering about the lives of all those people around you and how we’re just stuck in our own routine, careless, too often, about what’s really happening. 😮

      Yep, I really love it when an ending makes things work for the better. I have no idea if, in the future, upon rereading, I would feel the same, but that’s something that future-Lashaan can worry about hahah 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh man, I imagined in too much detail those hands softly grasping a beating heart… Something along the lines of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, perhaps? 😉
    Fab review, Lashaan, I love how this book convinced you in the end despite such a rocky start! We all need some positive quirkiness in our lives (though I personally prefer my heart to be left alone, no grasping hands, thank you very much! :D)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hahahahaah it sounded much better in my head before you put all those less pretty images in my head! 😛

      Thanks, Ola! 🙂 I was really convinced that I was going to have an unpopular opinion for an author that everyone seems to love but I’m glad that this one worked in the end. I’ll have to try his past work to really know how I feel about his ideas.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I experienced a rough start too but was completely captivated in the second half. You could tell that the themes were important to Backman with how tenderly and carefully they were presented. I love how I need to read Backman slowly and carefully to comprehend his subtlety and understatement. He doesn’t waste many words! Great review Lashaan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m really glad that it was towards the end that the pieces fit perfectly and that he smoothed out the edges before it was too late. The quirkiness of these characters almost made me want to hide! 😀 I’ll have to try his other beloved stories to really see how his understanding of human nature is stunning! Thanks for reading, Carol. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Not going to ever happen for me. Real life is filled with enough people who I can’t stand, so them making their way into my entertainment? Oh no!

    And I still think this guy is richard bachman, every time I see the name Backman. I was wondering why King was writing as Bachman again. Then I see the “Fredrik” and I realize my mistake.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahahahahah you’d have wanted to burn these pages if you had met some of these characters. No jokes. One of them made me want to punch a wall by how obnoxious and pretentious she was…

      Welp. Definitely not that Bachman! 😛 Although the kind of horror explored here is much more… real… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What an intriguing review for an equally intriguing and unusual concept!
    The theme of complete strangers thrown together by quirky circumstances is one I often enjoy, and despite the little problems you mentioned this might prove to be an intriguing read, and one way off my usual beaten tracks. Which is good, because a little change is always healthy… 🙂
    Thank you so much for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My thoughts exactly Lashaan! I too struggled in the beginning! It felt all over the places with so many characters so I was wondering: where does the author want to go???? But then, everything made sense and the characters were amazingly detailed. He truly writes about human souls and hearts.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. After reading and crying my heart out to Beartown, Backman has easily become an author I trust to take even the most bizarre concepts and make them golden. Backman’s understanding of humanity and how he pulls you in with his characters is just on a whole new level of epic. Anxious People is one of my most anticipated releases and I’m really curious to see how this book coms together. Brilliant review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re in for a treat for sure then! It was tough to really connect with these characters and what they were doing at first, but he really nailed it with the ending by giving us something to think about as we empathize with them. 😀 Thanks for reading, Lois!


  8. Like Ola, I pictured those hands softly grasping the heart, but being close to Halloween I saw them then begin to tighten, strangling the life from the still beating heart… Talk about anxious people?!? Great review, though. Not sure if this is one I’d try, but it sounds intriguing, at least parts of it. Glad to hear you enjoyed it when all was said and done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahaah I was clearly in a whole other mindset, one that thought Halloween was still far, far away! 😉 It’s a truly quirky one that could deter many, but if you dare push through, it’s quite rewarding. I’ll have to try his other books, which are probably less humour-oriented, to really see how good the other is at exploring human nature. 😮 Thanks for reading, Todd! Always a pleasure to hear your thoughts on my posts. 🙂


  9. “the author found a way to reach deep within my heart, to grasp it softly with both hands, and to smoothly comfort me with the complexity of human nature and our ability to show kindness to strangers.” And, from my own experience and what I’ve heard from others–you’ve described the last 25% or so (if not more) of every Backman book.

    And it always works. Even when you know it’s coming.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well then. Now I know hahaha He really has a way to turn it around perfectly and make you realize how genuine and beautiful humans can be. But if the ending of this says anything of his writing, it definitely promises that, if he went for a full-on less-quirky story, he’d probably destroy me emotionally!


  10. Wonderful review, Lashaan. I am glad, it ended up being a good read for you. Other bloggers have apparently had the same experience, finding it difficult to get into, but eventually winning them over. Personally, I am still warming up to more Backman. For some reason, I find it hard to believe that any of his other novels can live up to A Man Called Ove. Stupid really, but there you go! 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Amazing review, Lashaan! This author really knows how to write about human connection and emotions and I’m glad to see that this book didn’t disappoint. Thank you also for highlighting some of the negatives, I feel like his work is always so hyped that people often overlook some of the weaknesses.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Darina! 😀 If this is his weakest one so far, then I’m sure his other titles will destroy me emotionally! I was soooo ready to write a truly unpopular review for this one until the ending made me reconsider, then again, the issues I had remains flaws, and others might not be as forgiving as I was to it too. 😮


    1. Then this MIGHT be something that might intrigue you. I’ve always heard great things about Fredrik Backman too. Just be aware of the insane personalities that these characters have and how… implausible the plot might be if you think hard and long about it in today’s era… 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Aaah it sounds like such a fun book! I’m really curious to read it through, though I guess I will probably be as annoyed as you (if not more) by the annoying character… Thanks for sharing Lashaan 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  13. If you’d ever consider submitting some of your work for publication, Dixie State University has an online literary journal and is currently open for submissions.

    We are sorely lacking in fiction and nonfiction submissions! We also accept audio recordings, visual art, book reviews, multimedia, nonfiction, photography, etc. You can check us out at The deadline to submit this year is November 6th.

    Liked by 2 people

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