Get ready to experience a rollercoaster of emotions with Fredrik Backman’s masterpiece, “Anxious People”.
In this poignant yet hilarious comedy, a failed bank robber takes a group of strangers hostage during an open house viewing, leading to a life-or-death situation, eventually bringing unexpected revelations to light.
From a wealthy bank director to an elderly woman who refuses to be intimidated, each character brings a unique perspective in this once in a lifetime story. As the tension builds and secrets slowly crawl out, the robber must decide between facing the police or staying with this unlikely group of people.
In this discussion guide, we’ll have a look at some book club questions for Anxious People and why it’s a must-read for anyone who wants to gain deeper insights into the human condition and be reminded of the importance of compassion for others.
And in case you want to read what the book is about and know my opinion, I have a detailed blog post here – Anxious People Book Review.
The post might contain affiliate links. For more information, read our disclosure. Also, these questions contain spoilers.
Anxious People Book Club Questions for Discussion
- What themes did you notice throughout Anxious People? Think about issues such as redemption, second chances, friendship, and family dynamics that Backman addresses in his writing.
Examine how these motifs develop over the course of the book and why they might be important to understanding its message.
- Anna-Lena’s past career as a successful executive has left her feeling guilty and unsure about her current relationship with her husband. She feels responsible for his lack of career success and has taken on the role of a submissive wife to make up for it. This dynamic also speaks to larger societal expectations and stereotypes about gender roles and career success.
Do you think Anna-Lena’s journey throughout the novel is more about rediscovering her own self-worth and realizing that she doesn’t need to sacrifice her own desires and ambitions for the sake of her partner?
- What are Julia’s worries about being a good mother? – Being bereft of any kind of emotional support, she is worried that she won’t be able to provide her child with the love and support they need, along with not having enough money to raise them properly.
Does being a mother without any kind of emotional support make a person anxious to the core?
- Jim is the older cop who is guided by his heart rather than the rules. Unlike Jack, Jim believes in the best in people and sees the complexity in their actions. He sends money to his drug-addicted daughter, hoping that she will come home, and he allows the bank robber to escape instead of apprehending her.
Don’t you think that Jim’s approach to life is more personal and connected than Jack’s, who is more focused on the rules and his duty as a cop with no real emotions in play?
- How does Estelle’s story of having an emotional affair with the neighbor next door affect the group? Does it make them sympathize with Estelle’s situation more? Are they surprised by her courage to admit something so personal in front of strangers? Do any of them relate to her story in some way?
- Roger sacrificed his own career opportunities and ambitions so that he could allow Anna-Lena to focus on achieving hers. Do you think sacrificing your career for someone else is justified?
- The novel portrays anxiety as a driving force behind people’s behavior, often leading them to make poor decisions or take desperate measures. The narrator uses the term “idiocy” endearingly to describe characters who are doing their best to get through the day, despite feeling overwhelmed by their anxieties. Discuss.
- A note was mailed to Zara by a man who supposedly died after she denied a loan to her. If you were a bank manager, do you think you should take the risk of giving a loan to someone in need, in spite of knowing that he or she might turn into a defaulter?
- The bank robber is a woman who is desperate to keep her daughters after her husband cheated on her with her boss and left her homeless and penniless. She sees robbing a bank as a way to get the funds she needs to pay for her apartment and keep her daughters. The hostages, who are accidentally held captive by the bank robber, sees her as a sympathetic character who made mistakes, just like they have. They sympathize with her situation and realize that she needs grace and a second chance, just like they do.
If you were one of the members held hostage, what would you have done in such a situation?
- Zara opens the note only to realize that the message inside her purse simply says, “it wasn’t your fault”. She breathes a sigh of relief, knowing that she is not to blame for the incident. What do you make of the message and its implications?
And how do you think the situation would have been if the man blamed Zara for his debacle?
- The group of strangers brainstorm different ways that can help the robber get out of her predicament, such as finding a friend or family member who could loan her the money she needs or helping her find a job.
Don’t you think it is foolish for someone to do that in such times of crisis?
- The bank robber is held captive by her financial struggles and divorce, while the hostages are physically held captive in the apartment. As humans, we are all held captive by something or the other.
Does reading Anxious People make you feel the same?
- What message do you think Fredrik Backman was trying to convey with this novel? Having empathy for others, recognizing our own flaws, or simply appreciating life’s precious moments – are these morals important to you? What did the novel ultimately mean to you, and has it changed your outlook on life?
What message do you think Fredrik Backman was trying to convey with this novel? Having empathy for others, recognizing our own flaws, or simply appreciating life’s precious moments – are these morals important to you?
What did the novel ultimately mean to you, and has it changed your outlook on life?
- At the beginning of the novel, Zara sees Nadia only as a means to get a prescription for sleeping pills. However, as they spend more time together during the hostage situation, Zara begins to open up to Nadia and reveals her innermost thoughts and fears. Nadia, in turn, provides a non-judgmental and empathetic ear for Zara to confide in. By the end of the novel, Zara and Nadia have formed a deep and meaningful bond, with Zara finally acknowledging the value of human connection and emotional support.
Do you think every Zara needs a woman like Nadia in her life and vice versa?
- Jack investigates further to understand how the bank robber could have disappeared, and he realizes that it was Lennart’s prop blood and the vibration of the phone that caused the errant gunshot.
How did Jack come to this conclusion?
- If you have read the book, I bet you might have just watched the movie on Netflix as well. How well do you think the movie adaptation depicted the story from the novel? Did it leave a strong impression on you?
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