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  • Writer's pictureHargun Sachdev

Book Review: Anxious People

Humorous and heartfelt. That’s the book in two words for you. But it deserves a lot more words so here we go.

I think the opening two paragraphs of the book Anxious People by Fredrik Backman are very telling of the whole book:

A bank robbery. A hostage drama. A stairwell full of police officers on their way to storm an apartment. It was easy to get to this point, much easier than you might think. All it took was one single really bad idea.

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.

The most engaging book of 2021 thus far

The first page itself had me hooked. You can see why! The narration of the book made me feel like the author was speaking to me. The brilliance of this book I just can’t articulate even if I try. But that’s exactly why I will. Going into the book from here on it was not about the plot or the premise for me as much as the tone and writing style. And it consistently continues throughout the book. From the first page to the last – there was not a single page that was boring.

I found so much of what was written in this book so relatable. The everyday worries and joys and irritations of life. How we love each other. How we all are smart but also idiots. The book made me cry both – tears of joy and sadness. Mostly because it made me feel understood.

The plot of the book

On the surface, it’s about a group of (peculiar/anxious) people at a house viewing a day before the new year. And about a bank robber who ended up there without intending to. And about two cops who are trying to sort it out.

So, yes, it’s sort of a hostage + investigative drama. But honestly? Not really. It’s about all these people and how they come to feel for each other. It’s a humorous book with writing that is beautiful.

The characters in the book

The characters are very irritating at first, at least I found them so. But also amusing and funny. We are first introduced to them through the cops questioning them about the bank robber. Throughout the book, the cops try to figure out what happened and who did it. And throughout the book we see why all these characters are the way there are and what their anxieties are made of.

The book’s narrative is non-linear and chapters switch between timelines but also between different characters. It’s my favourite kind of setting!

Another thing I loved about Anxious People was the perfect balance – its characters are as interesting as the plot is. I was kept hooked about what’s going to happen next but at the same time I was also so intrigued by the dialogue and life of the characters.

100 points for relatability

For everyone new to adulting and everyone having a mid-life crisis and everyone who’s been through it all already, I think this book will be very relatable.

Because the terrible thing about becoming an adult is being forced to realize that absolutely nobody cares about us, we have to deal with everything ourselves now, find out how the whole world works. Work and pay bills, use dental floss and get to meetings on time, stand in line and fill out forms, come to grips with cables and put furniture together, change tires on the car and charge the phone and switch the coffee machine off and not forget to sign the kids up for swimming lessons. We open our eyes in the morning and life is just waiting to tip a fresh avalanche of “Don’t Forget!”s and “Remember!”s over us. We don’t have time to think or breathe, we just wake up and start digging through the heap, because there will be another one dumped on us tomorrow. We look around occasionally, at our place of work or at parents’ meetings or out in the street, and realize with horror that everyone else seems to know exactly what they’re doing. We’re the only ones who have to pretend. Everyone else can afford stuff and has a handle on other stuff and enough energy to deal with even more stuff. And everyone else’s children can swim.

1000 points for the message

Naturally, each of us takes away different things from the books we read and the art we consume. For me the message of Anxious People was to all of us adults and anxious people – You’re doing the best you can. Keep going. Despite the idiotic things you may do, despite how stupid you may look – keep going.

It is light-hearted for the most part but I did find myself close to falling into rabbit holes of hopelessness about life and the situations we can find ourselves in despite how hard we try at life. But it won’t leave you sitting with that feeling – quite the opposite really. It left me with tears of joy. And those are quite hard to come by.

The people I recommend this book to

Anxious People should be read by everyone who wants to laugh out loud, figure out a mystery, and feel comforted and understood. For all those people who want a book that’s engaging through and through and really easy to get in to. But most of all I’d say read this book by Fredrik Backman if you want to be left with a feeling of warmth in your heart.

Feature image is owned by me.

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