Anxious People

Anxious People

by

Fredrik Backman

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Anxious People can help.
Estelle is a woman in her late 90s who, unbeknownst to the other apartment viewers until the end of the hostage drama, actually lives in the apartment for sale. A widow who lost her husband of “forever,” Knut, in the last few years, Estelle is lonely and asks specifically for an apartment viewing on the day before New Year’s Eve so she has company at what used to be one of her and Knut’s favorite times of the year. For much of the hostage drama, Estelle insists that Knut is still alive and is outside parking the car. Throughout the day, she comforts the robber, insists on feeding people, and dispenses sage advice about marriage and parenting. Her advice includes to never say purposefully hurtful things to one’s spouse and to never enter an argument hoping to win. Eventually, after getting drunk on several bottles of wine, Estelle admits that she had an affair—she and her neighbor exchanged books in the elevator—and that her lover gave her the key to his apartment across the hall. She helps the robber escape across the hallway and, after the hostage drama ends, allows the robber and her daughters to live with her, essentially for free.

Estelle Quotes in Anxious People

The Anxious People quotes below are all either spoken by Estelle or refer to Estelle. 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 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 62 Quotes

“I just said Knut was parking the car because I get lonely sometimes. And it feels better to pretend that he’s on his way. Especially at this time of year, he always used to like New Year, we used to stand at the kitchen window watching the fireworks. Well…we used to stand on the balcony for years…but I couldn’t bring myself to go out there after something that happened down on the bridge ten years ago. It’s a long story.”

Related Symbols: The Bridge
Page Number: 282
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:
Get the entire Anxious People LitChart as a printable PDF.
Anxious People PDF

Estelle Character Timeline in Anxious People

The timeline below shows where the character Estelle appears in Anxious People. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 29
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...up with motives, as someone helped the robber. Anna-Lena says Zara looked suspicious, but ancient Estelle certainly had nothing to do with it. She and Roger never help anyone at viewings,... (full context)
Chapter 30
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Estelle, an old lady whom nobody has noticed yet, shuffles to the robber and offers them... (full context)
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
In the silence that follows, Estelle suggests they all introduce themselves. The robber refuses to give their name, but everyone else... (full context)
Chapter 31
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Jim is interviewing Estelle. He apologizes, but she says this has been great—nothing happens when you’re almost 90. Jim... (full context)
Chapter 33
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Continuing her witness interview, Estelle says she’s sure Stockholm is pleasant, and Knut isn’t prejudiced, either. Jim asks about Ro... (full context)
Chapter 36
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...not an idiot like Jim and Jack mean when they use “Stockholmer,” or gay like Estelle means when she says “Stockholmer.” He asks Anna-Lena to tell them to not shoot. Roger... (full context)
Chapter 41
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Estelle approaches Roger, the robber, and Ro in the hallway and asks if she can make... (full context)
Chapter 43
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
...and has very specific tastes, but Roger says he’ll get her the most expensive pizza. Estelle seems worried about making a decision quickly, so Roger puts her down for a capricciosa.... (full context)
Chapter 45
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...argue about the 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... (full context)
Chapter 54
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Estelle knocks on the closet door and asks Julia if she’d like a snack before the... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Thoughtfully, Estelle says that she and Knut decided long ago that they could fight, but they could... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Estelle says Knut isn’t an idiot, but she wishes he were here so she wasn’t alone.... (full context)
Chapter 56
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Estelle thinks about death. She remembers Peter Pan saying that “To die will be an awfully... (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... (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... (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... (full context)
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
When Estelle asks about Julia’s parents, Julia says that Julia’s mom cleaned offices and her dad “hit... (full context)
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Estelle says that Julia will be a great mom—and that she’s a great wife. Julia says... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
After a few moments of silence, Estelle blurts that she had an affair that Knut never knew about. Anna-Lena is convinced this... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...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... (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... (full context)
Chapter 61
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...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 for the... (full context)
Chapter 62
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Just then, the robber apologizes to Estelle: she remembers that Knut was parking the car, and he must be worried. Estelle says... (full context)
Chapter 64
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
...steps out of the station a few minutes later, but she’s clearly anxious and lonely. Estelle asks if she’s okay, and Julia asks if she was afraid. Ro invites London to... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Julia hugs her fellow hostages, and Estelle says she’d like to give Julia a book. Julia says that maybe they can exchange... (full context)
Chapter 65
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...robber asks him to wait: she’d like to make a demand. She wants fireworks for Estelle, who used to watch them with her deceased husband. Jim nods, goes downstairs, and lies... (full context)
Chapter 66
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
...the bridge and fortunately, he likes fireworks. Everyone stands on the balcony to watch, and Estelle thanks the robber and says Knut would’ve liked this. The robber apologizes for all the... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Estelle chirps that she had an affair once as she opens another bottle of wine. She... (full context)
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Panting, Estelle says that when Knut got sick, they signed the apartment to their daughter, but she... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...so they can tell the truth: that she was in the apartment when they left. Estelle puts the pizza in the fridge and gives the robber her phone number. Later, when... (full context)
Chapter 68
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
On the back steps of the police station, Estelle hugs everyone but Zara (who blocks her attempt). Julia invites Estelle to have coffee with... (full context)
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Estelle walks back home and calls her daughter to tell her not to worry about the... (full context)
Chapter 71
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
...and says that the divorce isn’t her fault. That night, as they fall asleep in Estelle’s apartment, the daughter tells her mom that she’s a good mom. (full context)