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.
Author: Gail Honeyman
“There are days when I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar. A strong gust of wind could dislodge me completely, and I’d lift off and blow away, like one of those seeds in a dandelion clock. The threads tighten slightly from Monday to Friday.”
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine had been on my TBR list for so long that when it was my turn to read it, I had completely forgotten that I’d been on the library waitlist. I’m so glad to have finally experienced Eleanor! I was charmed by her in the first few pages, and by the end, she had my heart.
“But, by careful observation from the sidelines, I’d worked out that social success is often built on pretending just a little. Popular people sometimes have to laugh at things they don’t find very funny, or do things they don’t particularly want to, with people whose company they don’t particularly enjoy. Not me. I had decided, years ago, that if the choice was between that or flying solo, then I’d fly solo. It was safer that way.”
The story opens with Eleanor describing her typical routine: work from 9-5 during the week, the same thing for lunch each day while she does the crossword, pizza on Friday nights, and vodka straight through to Monday. She does all of these things on her own, but her insistence that she’s completely fine that way is a little too insistent for us to believe her.
Then one day, a co-worker inserts himself into her walk home after work, and they witness an older man fall and hit his head. Together, they call an ambulance and help out. This starts her careening down a path of friendship, social interaction, and the healing that she doesn’t even realize she needs.
“Although it’s good to try new things and to keep an open mind, it’s also extremely important to stay true to who you really are.”
Eleanor is hilarious. She speaks like a classic poet (using terms like “sotto voce” instead of “under her breath”), believes in propriety and good grammar, and is quick to tell the world when she thinks it’s being ridiculous. At first, you think she’s a bit mean and judgmental, but it becomes quickly apparent that there’s more to her demeanor than quirkiness.
Throughout the story, the audience is also intrigued by allusions to her childhood and deep-set trauma. Her mother was guilty of a crime, her face was badly burned, she had grown up in foster care—but what had happened?
I loved how this book made me second-guess my internal dialogue as it relates to my judgment of others and the world around me. We can all use a reminder every now and again that we have no idea what a person has gone through, what has made them the way they are. We have no idea what effect our words an actions might have on another person. And sometimes, the people who insist that they don’t need anybody are the ones who need us the most.