You can now download printable book club questions for Anxious People by Fredrik Backman in this review! Scroll further for a PDF book club questions list + notes, as well as everything else you need to prepare for your book club discussion of Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. I am also including my full review of Anxious People to help facilitate your book club discussion. Please leave your thoughts in the comments if you have any suggestions!
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Review of Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
How can a book be both hilarious and also heart-rending at the same time? Well, Anxious People is exactly that kind of story. It somehow manages to talk about complex and painful issues such as suicide, insecurity in life and our daily struggles at adulting in such a quirky and funny, yet graceful way you wouldn’t believe it.
I chuckled and almost cried in an alternating fashion while listening to the audiobook and I couldn’t wait to be able to come back to another listening session. In fact, it took me only two evenings to finish it! I can definitely recommend it – it’s firmly in the top 5 of my favorite reads of this whole year, perhaps even as #1.Anxious People is a story that's both hilarious, but also heart-rending at the same time. A must-read: Click To Tweet
Check out on Goodreads
★★★★★ 5 stars
How I read this:
free audiobook through Libro.fm
This is a story about how ordinary people’s not-quite-so-ordinary life stories come together one day at an apartment viewing in the oddest way possible. A misguided attempt at bankrobbing ends up as a hostage drama, but it’s one you’d never believe is actually happening, because the amount of weirdness going on is just off the charts.
This weirdness is what will make you laugh and cry, and ultimately, it’s what puts every character’s humanity in the spotlight. And it’s precisely this humanity that will make you believe in the world again – because Anxious People is about how, despite all of our insecurities, we can come together to make life just a little bit more bearable for someone else. And sometimes, maybe even save a life – or a few. I’m firmly of the opinion that 2020 is a year that desperately needed this book.Anxious People is the book that 2020 desperately needed – to help you believe in humanity and good things again: Click To Tweet
The Quirky Element
The truth is, none, and I mean NONE of the characters in this story are normal, so to say. Well, not ‘normal’ normal – I mean, like how we imagine normal to be. Without problems, ‘adulting’ people who have it all together. None of them do, even though some may appear to be doing exactly that.
And I think that is the larger point of this novel – that we build up this illusion we have about ‘everyone else’ – everyone else has it together, they have no problems, they know what they’re doing. But does anyone, really?
The truth is, probably nobody does – well, at least to varying extent. And so, Anxious People perfectly sums up the human condition – especially sharpened against the overall state of society right now, when we have everyone’s social media to constantly compare our lives to. And because of this point, I caught myself often shaking my head in agreement to what was narrated in this story.Does everyone else really have it together? Or do we just all think that they do? Anxious People is a story that expands on this idea: Click To Tweet
That accounts for the heart-wrenching parts of the story. As for the funny parts… Well, there are truly laugh out loud moments. Literally – I can’t even tell you how many times I laughed out loud while listening or repeated some funny phrase while chuckling to myself (and what my husband must’ve thought of me for it…) The book may make you cry, but it will CERTAINLY make you laugh, too.Anxious People by Fredrik Backman made me cry, but it made me laugh out loud as well. It's a book you need in your life: Click To Tweet
The Mystery Element
Funny or heart-rending, the story does have a mystery element as well. I don’t want to include spoilers, but you don’t really know how the situation you’re reading about (that is now seemingly resolved) actually ended up happening in the first place.
There is one missing piece of the puzzle, and the policemen are taking statements from all the hostages – which makes up most of the story – that, and the flashbacks to what happened. So as the story is revealed to you slowly, you can’t help guessing what happened, and it IS a really good mystery. It will keep you hanging. There are even quite a few twists along the way, and I certainly wasn’t able to see them all coming.
The way the characters are introduced was very interesting – the story jumps back and forth and sort of retells some of the places several times – but it doesn’t get boring or repetitive. On the contrary, each time it’s retold, it’s told through a new perspective, through someone else’s experience, and it reveals a lot of new, often quirky information about all the characters. It’s like it has so many angles, and there’s always some new trick being pulled out of the hat. I found this way of storytelling to be absolutely brilliant.
In the end… I was speechless. This book was EVERYTHING, it was deep, funny and wonderful. After I finished it, I sat wide-eyed for a while, not knowing what to even write in my review.
Anxious People encompasses kindness, our fumbling humanity, community, loneliness and feeling like you’re so alone and desperate, you may not want to live anymore. It tackles heavy and painful subjects, but it does so in such a graceful manner that you want to quote it to everyone you know. It puts the pin right into the center of the matter, and with some things in this book, I truly felt that the author simply said what I wanted to say all along about things, about life – except I couldn’t find the words – and he did it for me. This was a truly unforgettable read.Anxious People encompasses kindness, our fumbling humanity, community and loneliness – it tackles heavy subjects with grace and humour. Don's miss this brilliant read: Click To Tweet
Anxious People is a story that will stay with me for a long time. It’s definitely one of the audiobooks I will be listening to again sometime in the future. It’s one of my best reads of the year. I sincerely recommend it to you! Especially in the audiobook form – this book was the closest to a movie that I’ve ever listened to. It was truly spectacular.An audiobook that you won't be able to put down – Anxious People by Fredrik Backman is the book we all needed in 2020: Click To Tweet
I thank the publisher and Libro.fm for giving me a free copy of the audiobook in exchange to my honest review. This has not affected my opinion.
Book Club Questions for Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
Don’t forget that you can download a printable version of Anxious People book club questions here.
- One of the themes of Anxious People was that we all, to some extent, only pretend that “we have it all together”. Do you think that is true and how can you relate to this idea?
- None of the characters of Anxious People are “normal” in the strict meaning of the word. They all have their quirks, secrets, anxieties. Do you think Fredrik Backman accentuated these traits for the benefit of the story? Whose story did you engage with the most? And who do you think was most impacted or changed by the events of the book?
- There is a running theme of “found family” in the Anxious People – that if you are alone by birth or circumstances, you can still find your own. What do you think this theme brought to the story? What did it make you feel when you realized a bunch of the most mismatched people were about to defend a stranger as their own?
- What did you think of the bank robber’s family situation? What would you have done differently in their shoes?
- How long did it take you to see through the twists to understand what really happened? Did you get baited on who the robber was, and did you first misunderstand the situation of who owns which apartment? What do you think this deliberate confusion brought to the story?
- There are quite a few growth stories in Anxious People, but Zara’s particularly shines through. Zara starts out as a callous character, convinced she is better than everyone. We are almost pushed to dislike her at first. But as the story progresses, we find out WHY Zara is the way she is, and we also see her growth. Did you feel compassion for Zara’s character? Discuss the reasons she was the way she was and what made her change, and even search for change.
- The young policeman, Jack, has to make a tough decision – he has to decide which thing is more moral – abiding by the law, or protecting someone in a dire situation. How do you think his past history (the stranger at the bridge) impacted his decision? Do you think the backstory of his mother’s and sister’s lives impact it too, and how?
- There are many instances where the characters lie, but they do it for vastly different reasons (e.g. Estelle lies about her husband parking the car, Anna-Lena lies about the rabbit, Jack and Jim lie about what happened at the hostage situation, Zara lies about why she is there, etc.) Discuss the different instances and reasons people lied, and why do you think it was the way it was in the story?
I’m Evelina and I blog about books that made an impression on me. I love middle grade, women’s, scifi and some literary too.