Anxious People

Anxious People

by

Fredrik Backman

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Anxious People: Chapter 58 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Julia immediately regrets mentioning her fiancée, so she tells Estelle and Anna-Lena to forget it. But Estelle pulls out another bottle of wine and says they have time for long stories. Julia says that her fiancée always wanted to experience new things, like bungee jumping off bridges, and Julia wanted to be bored. So, she came home from Australia a week early and kissed Ro. Giggling, Julia says that she’s a florist and met Ro when Ro came into her flower shop. She says Ro was beautiful, and Estelle agrees: Ro is “exotic.” Sighing, Julia ignores this and says that Ro kept coming to buy tulips, and she always made Julia laugh. Julia told her mom about Ro, and Julia’s mom said that “the funny ones” last a lifetime.
With a bottle of wine gone, Estelle and Anna-Lena are getting into the groove. This is looking much less like a hostage drama now, and way more like a drunken, fun night among friends. As Julia describes ending her previous relationship and beginning her relationship with Ro, she implies that successful couples want at least some of the same things, at least when it comes to big stuff (like whether to travel lots or stay home and be bored). Julia’s mom also suggests that having a sense of humor is essential to a long-lasting relationship.
Themes
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
When Estelle asks about Julia’s parents, Julia says that Julia’s mom cleaned offices and her dad “hit women.” Julia and her mom walked out, and her mom never let her hate her dad. And then, when Julia told her mom about Ro, Julia realized Ro was the real thing. So, while her fiancée was in Australia, Ro came into the shop and made Julia laugh so hard she spit in Ro’s face. They went out for a drink, and Julia got so drunk she got into a fight with the security guard and told him that Ro was her girlfriend. Julia broke up with her fiancée and has loved being bored with Ro ever since. Estelle says Julia’s mom was right, thinking about several authors who wrote about the necessity of laughter and companionship.
Julia’s phrasing is interesting as she describes her parents: she suggests her mom did a lot of work to keep Julia from hating her dad. This contradicts what the robber said earlier about being unable to hate her neglectful mother. It’s unclear, though, whether this is a gender-specific thing (it’s impossible to hate mothers but not fathers), or if not all crimes parents commit are created equal. Hearing the story of Ro and Julia’s first date from Julia’s perspective after hearing it from Ro’s earlier allows readers to see once again how things change depending on a person’s perspective.
Themes
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Remembering Julia’s mom’s reaction when Julia shared that she was pregnant, Julia says that Ro will be a great mom. She has a nine-year-old’s sense of humor and can make any kid laugh. Estelle says Julia will be great, too, but Julia admits she’s not so sure—she doesn’t like playing, and she doesn’t even like most children. Anna-Lena says parents only have to like their own kids, and what kids really need are chauffeurs. Estelle says gently that as long as Julia is going to protect her child, sing to it, and teach it to not be a menace on public transit, she’ll be a great mom. Unable to stop herself, Anna-Lena says she hated the poop.
Recall that Ro is currently overcome with worry that she's not going to be a good mom. It’s interesting, then, that Julia feels the exact same way—and yet, there's little indication that Ro and Julia have spoken about this to each other. For now, it seems almost easier to admit these fears to complete strangers than to someone they know so well and love so much. Both Anna-Lena and Estelle suggest that parenting isn’t as difficult (and doesn’t need to be as anxiety-inducing) as so many parents in the novel seem to find it. They suggest that kids don’t actually need that much—and so parents in the novel are probably doing better than they think they are.
Themes
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Quotes
Estelle says that Julia will be a great mom—and that she’s a great wife. Julia says she nags Ro so much, but Ro does still make her laugh. Smiling and fumbling over her words, Julia says the first time she and Ro went home together, they entered Julia’s apartment and sheets she’d left hanging to dry hit Ro in the face. Ro flinched, and Julia nagged her to tell her what was wrong. Eventually, Ro shared that when her family fled over the mountains to get to Sweden, the kids each carried a sheet so when they heard helicopters, they could hide under them and blend in with the snow. The parents planned to run to distract the snipers in the helicopters. Somehow, Ro grew up to be a person who laughs. Her parents taught her to fight despair and cruelty with puns and fart jokes.
Ro’s story of fleeing a warzone is heartbreaking. Her parents’ plan to distract the snipers to save the children reinforces the novel’s insistence that parents will do anything for their kids. In Ro’s case, her parents also taught her the value of humor, which in turn makes her the ideal partner for Julia, according to Julia’s mom. As Julia tells this story, she also remembers how much she loves Ro and why she entered this relationship with Ro to begin with. Speaking to Anna-Lena and Estelle—connecting with strangers—may help improve Ro and Julia’s marriage, as it reminds Julia of what she has.
Themes
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Quotes
Get the entire Anxious People LitChart as a printable PDF.
Anxious People PDF
After a few moments of silence, Estelle blurts that she had an affair that Knut never knew about. Anna-Lena is convinced this is all getting out of hand, but Julia wants to know what happened. Estelle says Knut wasn’t a reader, but she was. The other man, her neighbor, also read and soon, they started swapping books in the elevator. This progressed to leaving notes in the pages. Blushing, Estelle admits that they never had sex, but once, the neighbor gave her a book with the key to his apartment inside. He wanted her to have a key, just in case. He died a few years later and Estelle went to the apartment showing when his kids sold it. Then she went home to Knut. Estelle says she always planned to end the night with the same person she started with.
It doesn’t seem like Estelle has told many (or any) people about her affair. But like Julia, she’s feeling less inhibited in strangers’ company, and the story of her affair allows her to offer another perspective on marriage. Knut wasn’t able to fulfill her need for a reading buddy, so she ended up turning to her lover to fill that need. However, in other ways, she remained faithful to Knut and never intended to leave or hurt him. In fact, this is likely why she never told him about her affair: she figured it would be intentionally hurtful to share, and so she kept up their agreement to not purposefully hurt each other.
Themes
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Anna-Lena has never had an affair; she was always too busy rushing between work and home, and she always felt like she was failing in both places. So, Anna-Lena is the first to suggest that they should help the bank robber. Estelle suggests that since there’s no real estate agent in the apartment and the police will certainly expect one, the robber can pose as the agent and walk out with the rest of the hostages. Just as Julia gets up to go tell Ro the plan, Lennart knocks on the door and explains that he needs to borrow a pair of pants; he accidentally lit his on fire earlier.
Though Anna-Lena began the novel ready to fight anyone and everyone, here she finds that she’s becoming more sympathetic and willing to help others. Thus, it starts to look like a good idea to help the robber, since it’s clear to everyone by now that the robber doesn’t want to hurt them and just made a mistake. It also starts to look like Jack was right to suspect that the real estate agent isn’t real and is just the robber in disguise.
Themes
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Lennart joins the women in the closet, where Estelle is now smoking. Anna-Lena gives Estelle a dirty look, but Estelle says the smoke will go out the vent. Coughing nervously, she says she’s pretty sure there’s an air vent—but when she stops coughing, someone continues to cough. Julia drags the ladder to the back of the closet and Lennart starts to climb up. The real estate agent is sitting in a cramped space above the hatch.
Just as when Estelle was talking about Knut as though he’s still alive, her language is interesting here—how does she know about the vent? This suggests she’s more familiar with the apartment than she’s letting on. Then, the real estate agent’s appearance shows clearly that the robber and the Realtor aren’t the same person—Jack is wrong.
Themes
Assumptions  Theme Icon