A Book About Anxious People

Review:

Anxious People

By Fredrik Backman

Rating: 5/5

Genre: Fiction

QUILTBAG Main Character: No

QUILTBAG Minor Character: Yes

Main Character of Color: No

Bechdel Test: Yes

Summary: A group of people at an apartment viewing on New Year’s Eve find their house hunting interrupted by a failed bank robbery turned hostage situation. Weaving in and out of time, the people at the apartment are confronted not only with a scary situation in front of them, but their fears and traumas of the past. Can lives change over the course of a single event, or is it all the things leading up to that event that change people?

Let’s Get A Little Deep:

My dad was the one to first turn me onto Fredrik Backman. It was shortly after Backman’s third novel was released in English, and my father called me specifically to tell me I should be reading these books. I admit I was reluctant. I am usually a “speculative fiction only” type of reader, who likes mystery or a little magic thrown in because, hey, real life is hard enough, ya know? But knowing my dad and I share similar tastes, I picked up A Man Called Ove. Dad was right, I was hooked. Backman is now on the list of authors I will read as soon as they release a new book. Anxious People was no exception, despite the fact that it came out in a year where I felt more anxious than I ever had before. 

Anxious People sounds like a downer of a book from the title and, maybe, from the description, too. If you didn’t know Backman, I don’t know that you would really know what to anticipate out of a story like this. But because I knew Backman, I knew it would be filled with incredibly detailed characters, moments of tears, and moments of laughter. I was right on all counts.

Sliding seamlessly between points of view and time periods, Backman makes a story with a lot of threads look as effortless as a finished gown. There isn’t a single thread dropped, a single weakness in the story, even though there are a lot of moving pieces.

Backman accomplishes this by focusing on the heart of the story: the people in it. When I say that a book is about thinking of others complexly, I usually mean that characters have to learn that other people are just as human as they are, or that they are unlearning something that helps them see others more clearly. When I say that Anxious People is about understanding people complexly, I mean something a little different.

You see, these characters don’t just need to see the others around them as complex, they need to see themselves as complex, too. So many of these characters are looking for something without because they do not see it within. They are expecting to find it in their hobbies or their partners, because they are afraid that if they try and find it within themselves, it will not be there. This makes them feel that others are judging them just as harshly, that they are seeing all the cracks in the surface. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own fears, we miss the fears of others. We get wrapped up in our sense of worthlessness, that we assume everyone thinks we are worthless.

To watch these characters’ walls come down, to embrace their own truths, and to then love each other more dearly, is nothing short of captivating. There is comfort to this story, a warm hug from a dear friend reminding you that, even in our most anxious times, we are not alone. It is only when we truly seek help for ourselves that we are able to love and help others.

In the world of COVID, this message could not be any more important. We love each other more fiercely, more deeply, when we look out for ourselves as well. When we show ourselves kindness, we can give it back tenfold. Anxious People is out now for you to order from your favorite indie bookstore. May I suggest La Playa Books, a local San Diego bookstore?

Thanks for going a little deep with me! I post reviews every other Thursday. Did you love Anxious People? Leave a comment telling me your favorite character. You can also find me on Instrgram at booked.with.grace or Twitter @gwasserst! Special thanks to Yasi (@yasaminnb on twitter, @ynbushehri on instagram) for editing my posts.

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