Group by Christie Tate

2 out of 5 stars

Everybody has a story and this book is Christie Tate’s story. The top-ranked law student in her class, Tate was as lonely and depressed as she was smart and successful.

After having suicidal thoughts, a chance conversation led her to seek out group therapy facilitated by a Harvard-educated therapist.

The story that follows is a raw and unguarded recounting of her going to group meetings and working through the ups and downs she experiences in her dating life over a seven-year time period. 

Group by Christie Tate

Before sharing my reactions, I think it is important to acknowledge how much effort Tate put into working through her issues. Kudos to her for dedicating so much energy and resources to working on herself, and for creating a support network among her group members. She seemed to find a community of people who loved her unconditionally. 

As good as these outcomes were, this book was hard to listen to and connect with. I picked Group as my Audible download for the month so I could highlight it in the mental health section of my blog. I was expecting to be able to glean some tips or insights from the author’s journey that I could apply to my own life or share with readers looking to improve their mental health. This is NOT that kind of book. While there are some vague lessons about not abandoning yourself, readers mainly get a lot of in-depth detail about the author’s sex life.

And, while I recognize that a traditional approach to cognitive therapy isn’t for everyone, Tate’s therapist’s approach was concerning to me. For one, he didn’t believe in confidentiality. She describes him using tactics many would consider unorthodox at best and manipulative and unethical at worst. 

From doling out weird assignments to sitting silently while Tate harmed herself during group, his behavior came across as questionable. At one point, Tate herself refers to him as “the puppeteer” of the group, and wonders why she gives “that strange little man such power” over her life. He didn’t always seem to have his patients’ best interests in mind. For example, it seemed a little suspect that every time Tate went to him about not feeling like she was progressing, he suggested she add another weekly group session to her treatment plan.

While this is a book I would like to discuss with others, I don’t see myself recommending it to anyone to read.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

3 out of 5 stars

After hearing all of the hype about this bestseller that’s been turned into a Netflix series, this novel was a bit of a disappointment for me. While it had funny moments and a few interesting observations about human nature, the storytelling style was a bit disjointed. It seemed to switch randomly from moments in the lives of some of the characters to the hostage situation to interspersing transcripts from the police interviews.

The cover of Anxious People displayed on an e-reader being held in someone's right hand.

The characters were a bit too quirky for my tastes. I understand that the author gave many of the characters exaggerated quirks for a purpose, but it resulted in me finding it difficult to connect to any of them. For the most part, many of the men and women involved in the hostage situation could have been better described as Annoying People rather than Anxious People. I have a hard time enjoying a book when there isn’t a character that I can relate to or root for to succeed.

While the plot was a tad absurd, I did appreciate some of the themes in the book. Anxious People reminds us of the life-changing effects of having compassion for each other. The interactions between the characters also highlight the fact that none of us ever really knows what someone is going through. 

“Some people accept that they will never be free of their anxiety, they just learn to carry it.” 

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

I also thought the author wove in some thoughtful observations about anxiety and depression. One of the lines that resonated most with me was “Some people accept that they will never be free of their anxiety, they just learn to carry it.” 

Another powerful observation was about the way people tend to hide their depression, even from the ones they love most. Backman writes, “A person who’s drowning doesn’t look like they’re drowning…Your family can be standing on the beach waving cheerfully to you, completely unaware that you’re dying.”

Even though this wasn’t my favorite book, I do think I will give Backman another try to see if I connect better with a different one of his stories.