Anxious People

Anxious People

by

Fredrik Backman

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Anna-Lena is Roger’s wife; they plan to buy the apartment as an investment property. Initially, Anna-Lena reads as subordinate and deferential: she’s not used to anyone (not least Roger) listening to her, so she voices all her thoughts. However, Lennart notes that she’s probably the best-educated person at the viewing, as she worked as the top analyst for an industrial firm for years. Since her career was going so well, Roger consistently put his on hold to care for their kids, something that Anna-Lena feels guilty about since retiring. Desperate to make Roger feel needed, competent, and useful, Anna-Lena hides that she wants a home (rather than to flip properties). She also hides that she’s been hiring Lennart, a professional interrupter, to make scenes at apartment viewings to make Roger believe that his negotiating tactics work. However, this all comes out during the hostage drama, when there’s no way to explain away Lennart’s presence at the viewing. Anna-Lena is the first to suggest that the hostages help the robber, as she knows what it’s like to feel trapped by one’s mistakes. Though she and Roger are still unwilling to discuss their marital problems by the end of the novel, the narrator implies that the two will make up.

Anna-Lena Quotes in Anxious People

The Anxious People quotes below are all either spoken by Anna-Lena or refer to Anna-Lena. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
).
Chapter 1  Quotes

Sometimes it hurts, it really hurts, for no other reason than the fact that our skin doesn’t feel like it’s ours. Sometimes we panic, because the bills need paying and we have to be grown-up and we don’t know how, because it’s so horribly, desperately easy to fail at being grown-up.

Because everyone loves someone, and anyone who loves someone has had those desperate nights where we lie awake trying to figure out how we can afford to carry on being human beings. Sometimes that makes us do things that seem ridiculous in hindsight, but which felt like the only way out at the time.

One single really bad idea. That’s all it takes.

Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 28 Quotes

When you’ve been together for a very long time, it’s the little things that matter. In a long marriage you don’t need words to have a row, but you don’t need words to say “I love you,” either. Once when they were at IKEA, very recently, Roger had suggested when they were having lunch in the cafeteria that they each have a piece of cake. Because he understood that it was an important day for Anna-Lena, and because it was important to her it was important to him as well. Because that’s how he loves her.

Related Characters: Anna-Lena, Roger
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 36 Quotes

“Do you mean to say that…but…what about all my negotiations with the Realtor? All my tactics?”

Anna-Lena couldn’t meet his gaze.

“You get so upset when you lose a bid. I just wanted you to…win.”

She wasn’t telling the whole truth. That she had become the sort of person who just wanted a home. That she wanted to stop now. That she’d like to go to the movies occasionally and see something made-up instead of yet another documentary on television. That she didn’t want to be a shark. She was worried that the betrayal would be too much for Roger.

Related Characters: Roger (speaker), Anna-Lena (speaker), Lennart/The Rabbit
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:

“Stockholm” is, after all, an expression more than it is a place, both for men like Roger and for most of the rest of us, just a symbolic word to denote all the irritating people who get in the way of our happiness. People who think they’re better than us. Bankers who say no when we apply for a loan, psychologists who ask questions when we only want sleeping pills, old men who steal the apartments we want to renovate, rabbits who steal our wives. Everyone who doesn’t see us, doesn’t understand us, doesn’t care about us.

Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 40 Quotes

“There were so many cars there that it took the younger man twenty minutes to get to the part of the garage where we were parked. Roger refused to move the car until he got there. […] [Roger] replied that it didn’t mean he’d change his mind about the economy or fuel taxes or Stockholmers. But then he said that he realized that in the young man’s eyes, Roger must look just like that politician on television […] And Roger didn’t want the man with the beard to think that meant they were all exactly the same.”

Related Characters: Anna-Lena (speaker), Roger, Julia
Page Number: 174
Explanation and Analysis:

“I just wish Roger could feel important again.”

Julia didn’t seem to follow the logic.

“Grandchildren would make him feel important?”

Anna-Lena smiled weakly.

“Have you ever held a three-year-old by the hand on the way home from preschool?”

“No.”

“You’re never more important than you are then.”

Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 56 Quotes

“What did you used to do?” the young woman asked.

Anna-Lena filled her lungs, simultaneously hesitant and proud.

“I was an analyst for an industrial company. Well, I suppose I was the senior analyst, really, but I did my best not to be.”

“Senior analyst?” Julia repeated, instantly ashamed of how that sounded.

Anna-Lena saw the surprise in her eyes, but she was used to it and didn’t take offense.

Related Characters: Julia (speaker), Anna-Lena (speaker), Roger, Estelle
Page Number: 251
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 58 Quotes

“Ro’s going to be a brilliant mom. She can make any child laugh, just like my mom, because their sense of humor hasn’t developed at all since they were nine.”

“You’re going to be a brilliant mom, too,” Estelle assured her.

[…]

“I don’t know. Everything feels such a big deal, and other parents all seem so…funny the whole time. […] I don’t actually like all children. I thought that would change, but I meet my friends’ children now and I still think they’re annoying and have a lousy sense of humor.”

[…]

“You don’t have to like all children. Just one. And children don’t need the world’s best parents, just their own parents. To be perfectly honest with you, what they need most of the time is a chauffeur.”

Related Characters: Julia (speaker), Estelle (speaker), Anna-Lena (speaker), Ro, Julia’s Mom
Page Number: 258
Explanation and Analysis:

“They fled across the mountains, in the middle of winter, and the children each had to carry a sheet, and if they heard the sound of helicopters they were supposed to lie down in the snow with the sheet over them, so they couldn’t be seen. And their parents would run in different directions, so that if the men in the helicopter started firing, they’d fire at the moving targets. And not at…and I didn’t know what to…”

[…] [Ro’s] parents had taught her during their flight through the mountains that humor is the soul’s last line of defense, and as long as we’re laughing we’re alive, so bad puns and fart jokes were their way of expressing their defiance against despair.

Related Characters: Julia (speaker), Ro, Anna-Lena, Estelle
Page Number: 261
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 61 Quotes

“Yes, let’s have something to eat. This has all turned out to be rather pleasant, hasn’t it, getting to know each other like this? And that’s all thanks to you!” Estelle beamed.

“I’m sure the police won’t shoot you. Not much, anyway,” Anna-Lena said comfortingly.

“Why don’t we all go outside with you? They won’t fire if we all leave at the same time!” Julia insisted.

“There must be a way out, if it’s possible to sneak into a viewing, then it must be possible to sneak out,” Lennart pointed out.

“Let’s all sit down and make a plan!” Roger demanded.

Related Characters: Estelle (speaker), Anna-Lena (speaker), Julia (speaker), Lennart/The Rabbit (speaker), Roger (speaker), The Bank Robber
Page Number: 277
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 66 Quotes

“Sometimes I think that when you live together for a very long time, and have children together, life is a bit like climbing trees. Up and down, up and down, you try to cope with everything, be good, you climb and climb and climb, and you hardly ever see each other along the way. You don’t notice that when you’re young, but everything changes when you have children, and sometimes it feels like you hardly ever see the person you married anymore. You’re parents and teammates, first and foremost, and being married slips down the list of priorities. But you…well, you keep climbing trees, and see each other along the way.”

Related Characters: Anna-Lena (speaker), The Bank Robber, Roger, Julia, Ro, Lennart/The Rabbit, Estelle
Page Number: 300-301
Explanation and Analysis:

“This isn’t just an apartment, it’s my home, I don’t want to hand it over to someone who’s just going to be passing through, to make money from it. I want someone who’s going to love living here, like I have. Maybe that’s hard for a young person to understand.”

That wasn’t true. There wasn’t a single person in the apartment who didn’t understand perfectly.

Page Number: 305
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 67 Quotes

“You’re a good police officer, son,” Jim will say, looking down at the ground. He’ll want to add but an even better person, but won’t be able to bring himself to say it.

“You’re not always such a damn good police officer, Dad,” Jack will grin up at the clouds. He’ll want to add but I’ve learned everything else from you, but the words won’t quite come out.

They’ll go home. Watch television. Have a beer together.

That’s enough.

Page Number: 312
Explanation and Analysis:
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Anxious People PDF

Anna-Lena Character Timeline in Anxious People

The timeline below shows where the character Anna-Lena appears in Anxious People. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 28
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
The older couple, Anna-Lena and Roger, are recently retired. They’re the people who write detailed one-star reviews of household... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
From the balcony, Zara can hear Anna-Lena and Roger. She’s staring at the bridge, crying, and feeling nauseous as she tries to... (full context)
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Anna-Lena is critiquing the IKEA pillows on the couch. Anna-Lena and Roger have been to every... (full context)
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Ro asks Roger to borrow his tape measure, and he and Anna-Lena tell her absolutely not. Shocked, Ro returns to Julia and says she hates this apartment.... (full context)
Chapter 29
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
In Anna-Lena’s witness interview with Jack later that afternoon, she refuses to speak. She finally mentions that... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Anna-Lena says that she and Roger like sharing projects, and Roger is more sensitive than he... (full context)
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Jack tries to get the interview back on track, but Anna-Lena says that Roger doesn’t want to stay married to her. She explains that they’ve been... (full context)
Chapter 30
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Back in the apartment, during the not-robbery, Roger says he doesn’t have any money. Anna-Lena thinks that nobody ever understands Roger, so she stands behind him and mimes what he... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...the apartment? He realizes how ridiculous he sounds as the bank robber starts to sob. Anna-Lena says loudly that the apartment smells like mold. (full context)
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
...pistol went off, everyone else falls to the ground. The robber thanks Estelle. It takes Anna-Lena a minute to realize that she can’t breathe because Roger threw himself on top of... (full context)
Chapter 33
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...about Ro and Julia. Estelle says they were arguing, and it was cute; Roger and Anna-Lena were arguing too, but it wasn’t cute. Roger and Anna-Lena were arguing about the rabbit,... (full context)
Chapter 34
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
...to stop being mean. Julia tells everyone to shut up, even Zara. Meanwhile, Roger helps Anna-Lena up. He begins knocking on the walls. Anna-Lena loves it when he does this: it’s... (full context)
Chapter 35
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...police station. After arguing about Roger’s bleeding nose and why the police have notes about Anna-Lena (they’ve interviewed her too), Jack asks where the bank robber might be hiding. Roger says... (full context)
Chapter 36
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...when they use “Stockholmer,” or gay like Estelle means when she says “Stockholmer.” He asks Anna-Lena to tell them to not shoot. Roger stares at Anna-Lena, who’s sobbing. She says this... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
When Anna-Lena can’t answer, Roger lurches for Lennart. Ro and Julia hold him back. This upsets Anna-Lena.... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Roger has never been a man of many words, but he loves Anna-Lena. He knows her mirrored cabinet in the bathroom is important to her, so he always... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Anna-Lena reveals that things between her and Lennart have been going on for a year, and... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
...tells him to get out of the bathroom. Roger’s nose is bleeding, but he rejects Anna-Lena’s offer of a tissue and strides into the hallway. Anna-Lena walks into the closet and... (full context)
Chapter 37
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
...last year at work working on made-up projects. His bosses just felt sorry for him. Anna-Lena is doing the same thing now with the rabbit. Jack asks if the space between... (full context)
Chapter 38
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
When she comes out of the bathroom, Julia angrily asks Ro if she really let Anna-Lena go off on her own after her “emotionally challenged old fart of a husband” yelled... (full context)
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Ro apologizes for Julia calling Roger “emotionally challenged” and says that Roger and Anna-Lena aren’t headed for divorce. Roger is shocked (and didn’t hear Julia). Before Ro can stop... (full context)
Chapter 40
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Back in the hostage drama, Julia knocks on the closet door, where Anna-Lena is hiding and lets herself in. Julia suggests they both are tired of everyone else... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Returning to her parking lot story, Anna-Lena says Julia doesn’t understand. On the news that morning, a politician from Roger’s party had... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Anna-Lena says she never should’ve deceived Roger, but she just wanted him to feel good about... (full context)
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Julia and Anna-Lena smile at each other and all they have in common. Anna-Lena says she and Roger... (full context)
Chapter 41
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...his eye is twitching. He stares at the closet door as though trying to sense Anna-Lena’s presence, and then he says he’ll organize the pizza order. (full context)
Chapter 43
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
...for Hawaiian, but without pineapple or ham. She then opens the closet door and says Anna-Lena will have the same as Roger. Roger surreptitiously writes a new note since the original... (full context)
Chapter 45
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...difference between a chaise lounge and a divan. Julia says that they all—Estelle, Zara, Lennart, Anna-Lena, Roger, Ro, and herself—were in the apartment when they ate pizza. The real estate agent... (full context)
Chapter 53
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...say next, so she says it herself: he doesn’t care about the apartment’s seller or Anna-Lena or Roger, and the housing market is a construct, which means he doesn’t have any... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
...Lennart is laughing, and he tells Zara that she wins. Quietly, she points out that Anna-Lena and Roger are just postponing a divorce, and this must make Lennart happy because then... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
After a minute, Lennart says that Anna-Lena is one of his favorite clients. She just wants to make Roger feel needed, and... (full context)
Chapter 54
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
...says she’s thrilled that they have a female bank robber, and asks what Julia and Anna-Lena have been talking about. When Anna-Lena says they were talking about marriage, Estelle enthusiastically says... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...marriages can’t survive when one person wins. Estelle begins digging in the chest, which offends Anna-Lena. Anna-Lena’s displeasure disappears when Estelle pulls out wine. Julia explains that she can’t drink at... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...who doesn’t want to look like an alcoholic would hide their wine in the closet. Anna-Lena points out that alcoholics have empty bottles, not a wine stash, and Estelle says, tears... (full context)
Chapter 56
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...making Knut laugh so hard he spit his breakfast out, and she tells Julia and Anna-Lena that Knut is dead. But he always dropped her close to their destinations while he... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Anna-Lena says that “working life” goes so fast, and when Julia asks, she says she was... (full context)
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Estelle opens the chest again and pulls out cigarettes. Anna-Lena scoffs about what kind of people live here, and Julia patiently explains that she doesn’t... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Julia says it’s not Estelle’s fault that the man jumped, but Anna-Lena says it wasn’t the bridge’s fault, either. She explains that Roger found the incident upsetting,... (full context)
Chapter 58
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Anna-Lena has never had an affair; she was always too busy rushing between work and home,... (full context)
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.... (full context)
Chapter 61
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...off the ladder, the agent tumbles out of the vent on top of him, and Anna-Lena also falls over. Roger, Ro, and the bank robber rush over when they hear the... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...rent money so her ex-husband wouldn’t take her daughters away. She’s sobbing by now. Julia, Anna-Lena, and Estelle suggest that they can fix this, and Ro and Estelle insist they wait... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
...good enough. After a moment, Julia says that Roger doesn’t have to prove himself to Anna-Lena. He is good enough. They both stare into the fire and get smoke in their... (full context)
Chapter 62
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
...go to the door, and Lennart tells Roger to be angry with him, not with Anna-Lena. Anna-Lena begs Roger to let Lennart get the door, and Roger agrees. (full context)
Chapter 64
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...who are shown out the back of the police station. On the stairs, Zara, Lennart, Anna-Lena, Roger, Julia, Ro, and the real estate agent stare at one other. Roger asks what... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
...to buy the other empty apartment. This makes Roger laugh, and hearing Roger laugh makes Anna-Lena so happy that she has to sit down. (full context)
Chapter 66
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Julia spots Anna-Lena standing alone and gets up to tell her that hiring Lennart to boost Roger’s confidence... (full context)
Chapter 68
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
...a taxi in her life, but she tells Lennart he can sit in the front. Anna-Lena is still sitting on the steps, and Roger sits down next to her. She wants... (full context)