Anxious People

Anxious People

by

Fredrik Backman

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Zara is an extremely wealthy woman in her mid-late 50s who runs a bank. Ten years ago, she denied a man a loan, and this contributed to the man’s choice to jump off a bridge and die by suicide. But before he died by suicide, the man sent Zara a letter, which Zara has carried around for the past decade. Afraid to learn that it was her fault and that she’s a bad person, Zara doesn’t open the letter. And curious to understand what makes some people jump while others don’t, Zara regularly attends apartment viewings of apartments with balconies and a view of the bridge. Not long before the hostage drama begins, Zara begins seeing Nadia for counseling sessions—ostensibly because she can’t sleep, but also because she witnessed Jack save Nadia from jumping soon after the man died. During the hostage drama, Zara remains aloof and apart from her fellow hostages. However, she connects with Lennart, and the two ultimately initiate a romantic relationship. Throughout the novel, Zara expresses grief that the financial system abuses people’s trust and dreams. Ultimately, after reading the man’s letter and discovering that he didn’t blame her, she quits her job and gives her fortune away to an organization that supports kids who have lost family members to suicide.

Zara/The Woman Quotes in Anxious People

The Anxious People quotes below are all either spoken by Zara/The Woman or refer to Zara/The Woman. 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 26 Quotes

In the meantime Zara was standing in the elevator. Halfway down she pressed the emergency stop button so she could cry in peace. The letter in her handbag was still unopened, Zara had never dared read it, because she knew the psychologist was right. Zara was one of the people who deep down wouldn’t be able to live with knowing that about herself.

Related Symbols: The Bridge, Zara’s Letter
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 36 Quotes

“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 53 Quotes

“Apartments aren’t supposed to be investments,” Zara replied gloomily.

“What are they supposed to be, then?”

“Homes.”

“Are you some sort of communist?” the rabbit chuckled.

Zara felt like punching him on the nose for that, but instead she pointed between his ears and said: “When the financial crisis hit ten years ago, a man jumped off that bridge because of a property market crash on the other side of the world. Innocent people lost their jobs and the guilty were given bonuses. You know why?”

“Now you’re exaggerat—”

“Because people like you don’t care about the balance in the system.”

Related Characters: Zara/The Woman (speaker), Lennart/The Rabbit (speaker), The Man on the Bridge
Related Symbols: The Bridge
Page Number: 233
Explanation and Analysis:

She was no longer talking to Lennart, but exactly who she was talking to probably wasn’t clear even to her, but it felt like she’d been waiting ten years to yell at someone. Anyone at all. Herself most of all. So she roared: “People like you and me are the problem, don’t you get that? We always defend ourselves by saying we’re only offering a service. That we’re just one tiny part of the market. That everything is people’s own fault. That they’re greedy, that they shouldn’t have given us their money. And then we have the nerve to wonder why stock markets crash and the city is full of rats…”

Related Characters: Zara/The Woman (speaker), Lennart/The Rabbit (speaker), The Man on the Bridge
Page Number: 235
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

“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 69 Quotes

“But you know what, Zara? I’ve learned that it helps to talk about it. Unfortunately I think most people would still get more sympathy from their colleagues and bosses at work if they show up looking rough one morning and say ‘I’m hungover’ than if they say ‘I’m suffering from anxiety.’ But I think we pass people in the street every day who feel the same as you and I, many of them just don’t know what it is. Men and women going around for months having trouble breathing and seeing doctor after doctor because they think there’s something wrong with their lungs. All because it’s so damn difficult to admit that something else is…broken. That it’s an ache in our soul, invisible lead weights in our blood, an indescribable pressure in our chest.”

Related Characters: Nadia/The Psychologist/The Girl (speaker), Zara/The Woman
Related Symbols: Zara’s Letter
Page Number: 319-320
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 70 Quotes

The man who sent it to her ten years ago wrote down everything he thought she needed to know. It was the last thing he ever told anyone. Only four words in length, no more than that. The four biggest little words one person, anyone at all, can say to another:

It wasn’t your fault.

By the time the letter hits the water Zara is already walking away, toward the far side of the bridge. There’s a car parked there, waiting for her. Lennart is inside it. Their eyes meet when she opens the door. He lets her put the music on as loud as she wants. She’s planning to do her utmost to get tired of him.

Related Characters: The Man on the Bridge (speaker), Zara/The Woman, Lennart/The Rabbit
Related Symbols: The Bridge, Zara’s Letter
Page Number: 322-323
Explanation and Analysis:
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Anxious People PDF

Zara/The Woman Character Timeline in Anxious People

The timeline below shows where the character Zara/The Woman appears in Anxious People. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 18
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
...man went to a different bank to borrow money to pay his debts. But the woman there said he had suffered “moral hazard.” She explained it as two people sitting on... (full context)
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
...wouldn’t be a “chaotic parent.” God laughed. The man on the bridge, meanwhile, wrote the woman at the bank a letter, writing “exactly what he wanted her to hear.” He jumped... (full context)
Chapter 22
The Modern World Theme Icon
...hard to not point the pistol at anyone, but they accidentally point it at a woman named Zara. Zara is in her 50s and beautifully dressed—she’s clearly rich. But oddly, Zara... (full context)
Chapter 23
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
That afternoon, Jim interviews Zara at the police station. She refuses coffee and says it’s “stupid” to ask why she... (full context)
Chapter 24
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Though Zara could afford the apartment (her couch probably cost about as much), she wasn’t interested in... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Readers must understand that Zara recently began seeing a psychologist, as Zara has the kind of career where eventually you... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
During the second session, Zara asks how the psychologist would describe panic attacks. When the psychologist uses computer terms to... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
The psychologist quickly realizes that Zara is suffering from loneliness. But she starts asking questions about, for instance, what Zara thinks... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
During their fourth session, Zara stares at the painting on the psychologist’s wall of a woman staring out to sea.... (full context)
Chapter 25
Assumptions  Theme Icon
In the continuation of Zara’s interview with Jim, Jim admits he feels silly for saying what he said about banks.... (full context)
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Jim’s accusation offends Zara, so Jim moves on to asking how many people were in the apartment. Zara says... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Jim asks once again why Zara was at the apartment, and she reveals that viewing middle-class apartments is her hobby. She... (full context)
Chapter 26
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The Modern World Theme Icon
Returning to Zara’s past counseling appointments, when Zara and her psychologist meet next, Zara reveals that she has... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
The psychologist asks Zara what she does with her money. Zara says she buys “distance from other people.” Then,... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Before she goes, Zara asks if the psychologist thinks there are bad people, and if bad people know they’re... (full context)
Chapter 27
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Ten years ago, a man wrote and mailed a letter to a woman at the bank and then jumped off a bridge. A week later, a teenage girl,... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...be a psychologist and, 10 years later, moves back home. She has a patient named Zara, and Zara gets caught up in a hostage drama—in an apartment with a balcony and... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Zara found Nadia’s wallet and has been secretly following Nadia since. She’s been watching the bridge,... (full context)
Chapter 28
The Modern World Theme Icon
...coffee table, but the apartment is full of books and drawings the owner’s grandchildren drew. Zara immediately knows the agent is an amateur: only a serial killer would want to live... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...hear, Anna-Lena says the other couple doesn’t look like they can afford the apartment, and Zara is clearly too rich to want this apartment. Roger reminds Anna-Lena to say that this... (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... (full context)
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...absolutely not. Shocked, Ro returns to Julia and says she hates this apartment. Just as Zara walks in from the balcony, Julia shouts at Ro that she won’t leave until they... (full context)
Chapter 29
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...that they’re trying to come 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... (full context)
Chapter 30
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...just said. The bank robber asks for quiet and says they don’t want money, but Zara disapprovingly says the robber needs to be specific. Roger isn’t taking this entirely seriously, so... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...Estelle asks if the robber planned to rob the cashless bank across the street. When Zara sarcastically says, “Smart,” the robber shouts that they didn’t know, and they just need time... (full context)
Chapter 32
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...the aquarium. The robber says their daughters, who are six and eight, are like that. Zara criticizes the robber for trying to rob a bank, but the robber says they just... (full context)
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Zara pulls out her phone so they can call the police and be done, but Ro... (full context)
Chapter 34
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The bank robber asks the hostages if they think someone is in the bathroom. Zara asks if the bank robber’s parents were siblings and Ro tells Zara to stop being... (full context)
Chapter 36
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...that has made him a bit slow on the uptake. As Roger shouts at Lennart, Zara tells the bank robber to take charge and shoot the rabbit in the leg. The... (full context)
Chapter 38
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...nervously grabs a lime off the coffee table and starts to eat it. To avoid Zara, she squeezes herself in between the robber and Roger on the hall bench (she’s bad... (full context)
Chapter 43
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...getting a divorce means you have to make choices about wallpaper and dishes again.) Annoyed, Zara says the robber has to make demands. The robber says they just want to go... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Turning to Zara, Roger asks what she wants. Zara has never had pizza before and has very specific... (full context)
Chapter 45
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...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 real... (full context)
Chapter 47
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...she’d shoot herself if the pistol was real. But before she can finish the thought, Zara gently lowers the pistol. (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Zara has tried not to think of anything since the hostage drama started. She’s been in... (full context)
Chapter 51
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
When Zara sees the psychologist for the last time before the hostage drama, she arrives uncharacteristically early.... (full context)
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The Modern World Theme Icon
Nadia says she trusts Zara and believes that Zara is afraid of hurting people. She thinks Zara is more empathetic... (full context)
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The Modern World Theme Icon
Zara can barely breathe when Nadia asks if Zara feels guiltier about the people she’s lent... (full context)
Chapter 52
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...hostage-taker a crude joke, just to keep the conversation going. Jack stops suddenly: there’s a woman in her 50s on the balcony of the hostage apartment, wearing headphones. She looks bored... (full context)
Chapter 53
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
When Jack sees Zara, she’s just stepped onto the balcony after telling the robber not to do anything silly.... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Zara is used to seeing through people, not having them see through her—and Lennart’s comment enrages... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Lennart chuckles, tells Zara to calm down, and says the financial crisis was the banks’ fault. Zara has spent... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
By now, Lennart is laughing, and he tells Zara that she wins. Quietly, she points out that Anna-Lena and Roger are just postponing a... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
...to make it up to him by renovating apartments when she just wants a home. Zara feels like telling Lennart everything, like how she counts windows and likes spreadsheets and thinks... (full context)
Chapter 55
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...notes that it’s actually unusual to take people hostage. Then, Lennart asks if other hostages—namely Zara—are still at the station. She’s the first person he hasn’t been able to read, and... (full context)
Chapter 61
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
Lennart comes out of the closet, dressed, just as Zara comes in from the balcony. To her surprise, she doesn’t hate him. Roger turns to... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...wait for the pizzas. Estelle leads the robber away to help set the table and Zara gives Julia her lighter without Julia having to ask. Roger gruffly asks if Julia knows... (full context)
Chapter 62
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...year. She and Knut used to love watching fireworks off the balcony at New Year. Zara spoils the mood by noting that most people commit suicide on New Year’s, not Christmas.... (full context)
Chapter 64
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...the hostages, 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... (full context)
Chapter 66
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
...(except for Roger, who’s arguing with the real estate agent about the incorrect apartment plans). Zara and Lennart are standing by the window. Zara doesn’t seem to hate Lennart—and he seems... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...on the door. Roger grouses that with a policeman outside, the robber can’t sneak over. Zara suggests they try to bribe him, but the robber keeps her conversation with Jim a... (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 them, but Estelle refuses.... (full context)
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Back in the present, Zara hurries off the steps to avoid more hugs. Lennart follows her and asks if she’d... (full context)
Chapter 69
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
...snowing outside, and Nadia is on the phone with her dad. When Nadia hangs up, Zara knocks at the door and lets herself in. She’s holding a letter. Confused, Nadia asks... (full context)
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The Modern World Theme Icon
Zara says that in an earlier session, Nadia asked her why she likes her job. Zara... (full context)
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The Modern World Theme Icon
Zara falls silent. Eventually, Nadia says that Zara once asked her to describe panic attacks, and... (full context)
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Assumptions  Theme Icon
Zara tries to make more jokes, but she finally begins crying out of terror. Hesitantly, she... (full context)
Chapter 70
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The ice covering the bridge sparkles. Zara almost looks like she’s ready to jump, but anyone who knows her and what she’s... (full context)
Chapter 73
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Assumptions  Theme Icon
...also a photo of the bridge and another sealed envelope with a name on it. Zara recognized Jack when she saw him at the police station—and she suspected that, like her,... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
...on the office door. It’s been 10 years since a man jumped and a young woman didn’t. As soon as Nadia opens the door, Jack recognizes her and “his heart turns... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
...have lost family members to suicide. Nadia goes every year. She doesn’t know yet that Zara has just donated most of her fortune to the charity. Instead, she and Jack sit... (full context)