Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
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Synopsis 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.
This book charmed my pants off. I laughed, I cried, I cursed Eleanor a hundred and one times under my breath, and I yearned to step into her world and give her a big comforting hug. I’d like to think of myself and Eleanor as friends now, we’ve certainly been through a lot together.
Gail Honeyman’s beautiful novel about friendship, courage, self-love, and mental illness isn’t typically something I would find myself tearing through 80% of in a single afternoon. But Eleanor, a peculiar and inspiring 21st-century heroine, won my heart with her opening monologue and proceeded to tear it apart before putting the pieces back together. I haven’t felt so devastated for a fictional character in a long time, especially one as unique as Eleanor. I found myself wanting to throw a protective shield around her to stop the world from being so cruel.
But the amazing thing about Miss Eleanor Oliphant is that she doesn’t need me to do that, she doesn’t need anyone to do that. She’s strong despite the trials thrown at her, she isn’t afraid to be herself despite society telling her she’s wrong, and she isn’t afraid to learn and to grow as a person. There are hiccups along the way, major hiccups, but Eleanor knows that at the end of the day this is her life and she’s the one in control of her choices. Character development as deep as Honeyman’s Eleanor is hard to come across and it’s what made reading Eleanor Oliphant so deeply rewarding. Watching a character grow as a person while still staying 100% true to themselves, especially a woman dealing with mental illness, is a breath of fresh air amongst a plethora of two-dimensional female characters found in other novels.
Eleanor has inspired me. She’s inspired me to speak up when I feel I need help and to try new things to improve myself and make my world a little bit bigger. I’ve dealt with social anxiety for as long as I can remember and I loved seeing Eleanor, a woman who also hesitated with unfamiliar situations, suddenly become so brave, despite how difficult it was for her at times. And the rewards were so obvious and her life became much more fulfilling — living instead of existing, as she put it.
Eleanor Oliphant is a beautiful book. A warm hug manifested in paper and words. If contemporary fiction isn’t your thing, as it often isn’t mine, I still recommend giving this book a try and falling in love with Eleanor as much as I have. There’s nothing about Eleanor Oliphant that isn’t strange, but that’s what makes her and her story so unique. I predict this book will be involved in English Lit curriculums in the future and come to represent our slightly lonely generation living in a world of social media and isolation.