Book club questions for Anxious People by Fredrik Backman covers all the key characters and events in this charming novel.
This is actually the first novel I’ve read by Fredrik Backman and I so enjoyed his writing. There’s definitely a quirky, and somewhat, random nature to it and I liked how everything ends up coming together in the end. I thought he wrote the characters all quite well—all district and a bit lost for their own reasons. Such a creative story with a truly wonderful ending. I can see why this book is so popular!
If you’ve read his other books, let me know what you think about this one compared to his previous stories. And of course, if there are any others of his that I should read!
Here’s the synopsis:
Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix their own marriage. There’s a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything, from where they want to live to how they met in the first place. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.
Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.
Rich with Fredrik Backman’s “pitch-perfect dialogue and an unparalleled understanding of human nature” (Shelf Awareness), Anxious People is an ingeniously constructed story about the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope—the things that save us, even in the most anxious times.
Book Club Questions for Anxious People
- The book starts off with Fredrik writing that this is a book about idiots. And that while it’s easy to declare that other people are idiots, it’s also true how difficult being a human is. Let’s talk about what he’s saying here about human nature. When you see the word ‘idiot’ what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
- This story becomes one about a hostage drama. Why do you think the ‘bank robber’ decided to try to rob a bank? What does that say about desperation and also just having a really bad idea?
- Were you surprised when it turns out the bank robber is a woman?
- The story is told in a nonlinear way and while we have the hostage storyline there’s also one about a bridge and a tragedy that happened there. Let’s talk about how the bridge storyline connected with the hostage one.
- We follow the father/son policemen duo: Jim and Jack. What did you think about their dynamic and relationship?
- Jack tried to save the man from jumping off the bridge but the man still jumped. He did end up saving a girl – who we meet much later as the psychologist Nadia. Let’s talk about how the bridge impacted Jack’s life and career choices going forward. What did you think about the scene where Jack and Nadia meet again?
- Throughout the novel, we learn about Jack’s mother who passed away and his sister who is addicted to drugs. How did that factor into why Jim let the bank robber go free? Were you surprised when Jack ended up agreeing with his father in the end and letting her be?
- The people held hostage are all as different as can be in so many ways. But yet, there are some similarities, especially when it comes to grief, fear and loneliness. Let’s discuss how each of them are searching for some type of rescue.
- How do you think you would have reacted if you were one of the hostages?
- In what ways did this hostage situation change each of their characters for the better?
- Which character storyline were you the most engaged with in this story?
- At the end of the story, Fredrik writes that this story is about many different things but most of all about idiots. And how we’re doing the best we can. Let’s talk about this. What do you think are some of the key takeaways from the story?
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for Anxious People! Here are some more recommendations along with links to book club questions.
All Adults Here by Emma Straub
All Adults Here by Emma Straub is an entertaining character study.
When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus accident in the center of town, it jostles loose a repressed memory from her young parenting days decades earlier. Suddenly, Astrid realizes she was not quite the parent she thought she’d been to her three, now-grown children. But to what consequence?
Astrid’s youngest son is drifting and unfocused, making parenting mistakes of his own. Her daughter is pregnant yet struggling to give up her own adolescence. And her eldest seems to measure his adult life according to standards no one else shares. But who gets to decide, so many years later, which long-ago lapses were the ones that mattered? Who decides which apologies really count? It might be that only Astrid’s thirteen-year-old granddaughter and her new friend really understand the courage it takes to tell the truth to the people you love the most.
A Star is Bored by Byron Lane
A Star is Bored by Byron Lane is another clever and heartfelt story to add to your list.
Charlie Besson is tense and sweating as he prepares for a wild job interview. His car is idling, like his life, outside the Hollywood mansion of Kathi Kannon, star of stage and screen and People magazine’s Worst Dressed list. She’s an actress in need of assistance, and he’s adrift and in need of a lifeline.
Kathi is an icon, bestselling author, and award-winning movie star, most known for her role as Priestess Talara in a blockbuster sci-fi film. She’s also known in another role: Outrageous Hollywood royalty. Admittedly so. Famously so. Chaotically so, as Charlie quickly discovers.
Charlie gets the job, and his three-year odyssey is filled with late-night shopping sprees, last-minute trips to see the aurora borealis, and an initiation to that most sacred of Hollywood tribes: the personal assistant. But Kathi becomes much more than a boss, and as their friendship grows Charlie must make a choice. Will he always be on the sidelines of life, assisting the great forces that be, or can he step into his own life’s leading role?