Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

This book has been on my TBR list for a while so I was very happy when my book club picked it to read.  I had heard great things which sometimes worries me.  Would the book be as good as most people say it is? Will these reviews cloud my own judgement of the book?  What if I’m the only person to not like it?  In the end, I shouldn’t have been worried because this book exceeded my expectations.  I fell in love with Eleanor and Raymond and was charmed by the writing.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone.

Eleanor is a woman who had convinced herself that her life is fine when we the reader know differently.  There is nothing inherently bad about her life (except for her mother issues) but I wouldn’t say her life is horrible.  She has a job that she likes, she has her own apartment, and she can take care of herself.  But she also doesn’t have any friends and spends her weekend drinking vodka to the point of passing out and has a social worker that visits her from time to time.  She is clearly somewhere on the autism spectrum but if she has been like that from birth or if her mental state is a result of her traumatic childhood is unclear.   She is blunt and to the point, which is often detrimental to her, though she doesn’t see anything wrong with telling people the truth.

“No thank you,” I said. “I don’t want to accept a drink from you, because then I would be obliged to purchase one for you in return, and I’m afraid I’m simply not interested in spending two drinks’ worth of time with you.”

The introduction of Raymond, the new IT guy at her job throws her perfectly crafted life into a tail spin and forces her to make changes and reevaluate what is important to her.  It also opens up old wounds and causes her to go to places mentally she is unprepared for and has been suppressing for years.

Peppered throughout the funny scenes and the laughter (and there is a ton of laughter) are scenes that are so heartbreakingly sad that I found myself having to stop reading for a few minutes so I could digest what I just read.   There is a particularly poignant scene where Eleanor talks about loneliness that I could not get out of my head even a week after reading it.   “I took one of my hands in the other, tried to imagine what it would feel like if it was another person’s hand holding mine. There have been times when I felt that I might die of loneliness. People sometimes say they might die of boredom, that they’re dying for a cup of tea, but for me, dying of loneliness is not hyperbole. When I feel like that, my head drops and my shoulders slump and I ache, I physically ache, for human contact-I truly feel that I might tumble to the ground and pass away if someone doesn’t hold me, touch me.  I don’t mean a lover-this recent madness aside, I had long since given up any notion that another person might love me that way but simply as a human being.”  My heart.

I liked that the book was written from Eleanor’s perspective because it allowed the reader to guess about many things, including what the other characters actually looked like.   Raymond is very unflatteringly described by her but we come to find out that maybe that’s just how Eleanor is judging him.  Are her coworkers really that bad or is that just how she perceives them to be?  It was interesting to guess how the characters truly are versus how Eleanor sees them.

Overall, this was a wonderful book filled with laughter and tears (a very hard thing for an author to do).  I felt for Eleanor as if she were real and there were moments I wished she was.  I found myself routing for her and hoping things would work out.  This was an immensely enjoyable read.

Author:  Gail Honeyman

Published: 2017

Rating: 5 Stars


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