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Anxious People

Reviewed by Jeni
Article Date
March 2, 2021

At the beginning of Fredrik Backman’s Anxious People, he writes: “This story is about a lot of things, but mostly about idiots. So it needs saying from the outset that it’s always very easy to declare that other people are idiots, but only if you forget how idiotically difficult being human is.”

One of the idiots in question in Anxious People is a bank robber who tries to rob a cashless bank and winds up taking the people at a nearby apartment viewing hostage in an equally hapless escape attempt. The stories (and anxieties) of the people involved—including an inept real estate agent, a young lesbian couple with a baby on the way, an insensitive bank executive, a retired couple with marital problems, and an unflappable old woman—are revealed as the book progresses. Many surprises pop up along the way, and one plot twist in particular floored me.

I loved the variety and depth of the characters in this book and their often-funny interactions. I found myself laughing out loud more than once as I listened to the audiobook version of this novel. This isn’t just a funny story about idiots, though. It’s also a story that’s full of compassion. Unsympathetic characters become sympathetic as their stories come to light, reminding us that we’re all anxious people who sometimes behave like idiots, bumbling through life as best we can, often in desperate need of understanding and kindness.

If you liked A Man Called Ove, you may very well like Anxious People, too. The plots are very different, but I thought Backman’s latest work was just as heartwarming as his first (and probably most famous). My only minor complaint—spoiler alert (sort of)—is that the characters’ stories all tie up a little too neatly in the end for my taste, though I imagine many people would consider that another positive. Overall, I enjoyed this book, and I recommend it especially for its message of compassion for all of the anxious people out there.

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