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Anxious People

(Although I can wholeheartedly recommend this novel, be aware that it does deal with the topic of suicide, mental health struggles, and other serious subjects.)


I was about to go on a family vacation and a good novel was a must. Wandering through the Vancouver, Washington Costco's books section with my mom, we picked up covers that appealed to us (judging them, if you will) and read synopses.


As I considered one, a woman standing next to me said, “That’s an excellent book, I highly recommend it.” I turned to her in mild surprise and said, “Oh… thank you! Okay, I’ll get it I guess.” My mom, who was a few steps away, jokingly asked, “What do you think of this one?” holding up another. “Yes, that one’s great too! A real page-turner!” She assured us she was not a writer or a publisher or a book reviewer, but simply someone who travels often for work and likes to read on planes.


We both went with her recommendations and I walked out of the store with Anxious People by Fredrik Bachman.


So Many Feelings

This book is a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions – it is so sad, but also hilarious and heartwarming. Honestly, the very beginning was almost too sad for me. I found myself hesitating to pick it up because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to enter into the melancholy. But then I had dinner with some long-time friends and my friend Blake (a high school English teacher and avid reader) asked me, as he always does, “What are you reading right now?” When I said the title Anxious People, ready to communicate that I wasn’t sure about it yet, he responded immediately with, “One of my favorite books ever!” That was all the encouragement I needed.


As the book continues, I realized that the gift of the author is his ability to make the reader feel. So while it started out sad – and I felt it deeply – I also felt the joy and humor deeply. And it does get very funny and very joyful and still very sad at times.


Empathy

If this book had to be summed up in one word, it would be “empathy.” Every character and their choices are shown in a way that, even if you think what they’ve done is immoral, unwise, or incorrect, you can still understand why they did it, how they got there. You may even have the sense that you might do the same thing if you were in their circumstances.


“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.” – Page 1, Anxious People

He presents the case that when you look at someone doing something ridiculous, it’s easy to label them as an idiot, without realizing that we all might be the same idiot in that situation. He chronicles how someone taking an absurd action got to that place – and helps the reader realize that they were just trying their best.


We Need Each Other

The sadness at the beginning of the story has many nuances, but a lot of it is isolation. Fathers isolated from sons, even though they’re in the same room. Someone going through their daily life alone (even when in a crowd) with a horrible memory they don’t feel like they can talk to anyone about. Divorcees, the elderly, the career-obsessed – all completely overwhelmed by life and in desperate need of a committed friend. This story illustrates the revolutionary beauty of relying on other people and letting them rely on you too.

 

This story is funny, quirky, sad, and redemptive. Get ready to fall in love with each and every character, despite the fact that they are all “idiots.”

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