Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
by Gail Honeyman
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Length: 327 Pages
Release date: May 9, 2017
Blurb via GoodReads:
No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.
But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.
Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .
The only way to survive is to open your heart.
If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a story about mental health, childhood trauma, and loneliness. Eleanor is 30 years old and hopelessly isolated. She has a 9-5 office job with coworkers who don’t give her the time of day, not that she needs them to do so, thank you very much, and beyond that, she has weekly phone calls with Mummy, which she’d perhaps be better off without. Oh, and she’s on very cordial terms with the shop worker who sells her bread, vodka, and other household essentials once a week, so that’s quite nice. She has a routine, a home, and a job.
Eleanor is doing just fine. Except, obviously, she is not. This novel is the story of her slow unraveling as a small piece of her that still recognizes the need for human connection sends her spiraling out of control.
These days, loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted.
For all of Eleanor’s flaws and lack of social graces, Honeyman presents on her these pages with such incredible care and compassion. Eleanor’s first person voice strikes such a delicate balance; it becomes quite easy to see why many would avoid Eleanor’s company, but her quiet desperation provokes sympathy.
Raymond, whose friendship rescues Eleanor in her darkest moments, was a delight. Raymond is what I imagine most self-described “nice guys” believe themselves to be while they’re actually wildly missing the mark; laid-back, perhaps not the most handsome, and geeky, but fundamentally kind and warm. This is a love story between Eleanor and Raymond… it’s just not a romance. Honeyman explores Eleanor’s fumbling attempts at friendship as a grown woman who is only just now learning to have a friend and be a friend. The love that develops between these two is fundamentally life-altering and beautiful.
Eleanor seems to display some signs of being on the autism spectrum, particularly her reliance on routine and her very carefully planned use of various social conventions, such as air quotes. She seems to be trying to puzzle out how to interact successfully through her studious observations of those around her. However, autism is never directly addressed in the narrative, and one is left to wonder if these traits are a result of being on the spectrum or simply a result of the abuse she suffered as a child.
This book was an emotional roller coaster for me, and despite the fact that it was quite difficult to get through at times, I cannot recommend it strongly enough. Eleanor’s growth and healing are are uplifting and most definitely worth the wait. Eleanor is not magically healed by the power of friendship; she struggles and cries and has to reach out for professional help before she can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Honeyman has infused this book with a brutal honesty about what it can take to change your life and heal, but has tempered the harshness with moments of laughter and beauty.
It’s such a cliche to say “you’ll laugh, you’ll cry,” but trust me… you will.
Have you read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine? What were your thoughts?
What are your favorite books about platonic love?