Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Published May 9th, 2017 by Viking – Pamela Dorman Books
I cannot describe how utterly happy I am that I decided to read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine! I completely and utterly fell in love with Eleanor and all her social oddities and her awkwardness. At first, I thought Eleanor was just going to be another unusual, quirky character, maybe a bit odd and one-dimensional, but I completely misjudged the character! I completely misjudged the author and for that, I sincerely apologize.
For a debut novel, this is brilliantly written! I would never have thought this was Honeyman’s first novel because of the wonderful way she develops the characters and makes them seem so alive! Not only that, Honeyman has written a brilliantly warm, incredible story that makes you feel so many amazing things! When I finished reading the book, I was left both laughing and crying. I still feel so many emotions after reading this tender and touching novel, and I hope I feel the beauty of this story for a long time.
Eleanor is a socially awkward woman, and she doesn’t really know how to relate to other adults in quite the way that you would expect a 30-year-old adult to interact, which I thought was going to be weird at first but it made her all the more endearing. The situations that Eleanor finds herself in, like with her coworkers, having her 1st bikini wax, getting a manicure, having drinks or lunch, attending a dinner party, all show she completely lacks social skills and has absolutely no filter. Eleanor says what she thinks even though it often comes across as rude, which can lead to some very awkward (and funny) moments! Yet, she has no idea she even lacks these proper skills since she is also highly poised, very articulate, and intelligent. Eleanor thinks she is perfectly fine, and we learn this directly from her since the story is told from Eleonor’s POV.
Yet, you come to realize that Eleanor is not fine, she’s not fine at all, and she’s hidden this fact under her oddities and quirks because even she doesn’t realize exactly how much she needs help learning to cope with deep, childhood emotional trauma. Certainly, it’s sometimes easier to bury those kinds of psychological scars than deal with them.
One way of dealing with her past is by living a life through controlled routines. Eleanor goes to work every weekday from 8:30 to 5:30, spends her lunchtimes alone doing a crossword puzzle, goes home to her empty apartment, eats dinner alone, watches TV or reads, and heads off to her lonely bed. Only to do the same thing all over again the next day and the next day. Except on Wednesday. Then she talks to her “mummy” on the phone, who is incarcerated for a crime, for exactly 10 minutes. It is in these 10-minute conversations we see why Eleanor is so emotionally awkward and damaged since her mummy is verbally and emotionally abusive. Mummy constantly berates Eleanor and reminds her of catastrophic, tragic past events. Events that led to the burn scar running down the side of Eleanor’s face, which Eleanor believes makes her ugly in some way.
As you increasingly learn about Eleanor’s past abuses and lonely childhood, much of it spent in foster and state care, it’s much easier to understand why she lives her life almost in a bubble, a recluse isolated by the safety of routine and without any friends. I found it heartbreaking how Eleanor felt about herself because I don’t think that even Eleanor realized it was tragic to be so lost and lonely, and I admit I cried several times reading this book.
Then Eleanor meets Raymond, an easygoing coworker from the IT department! After they help an elderly man who fell in the street, her life begins to change. Raymond is the total opposite of Eleanor—he’s casual, laidback, unkempt, but completely kind, caring, and friendly. He actually wants to befriend Eleanor despite her quirks and odd ways and doesn’t make fun of her like her other colleagues so often do! I wanted to hug him so many times for treating her normally and continuing to make the effort to be her friend although she often rebuffs him in the beginning! They begin to go to the pub, have lunch, she meets his mother, they attend a party, and it is so lovely and warm how Raymond cares for her, especially as pieces of her past history start to emerge and a terrible event happens that causes the buried memories of her damaged childhood to be revealed.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a story about a woman who through the help of true friendship confronts and overcomes the hidden and painful moments in her past, learns to trust in pure kindness, and believes and accepts in herself. Eleanor is a survivor, and her story of heartbreak, hope, healing, and love is a beautiful and lovely thing. You’ll laugh, cry, and cheer for the endearing Eleanor! I loved this book, and I cannot wait to see what the talented Honeyman writes next because she is a truly gifted writer, and I am now a huge fan! I highly, highly recommend this book!
I want to thank NetGalley, Penguin Group Viking/Pamela Dorman Books, and Gail Honeyman for providing me with an ARC of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine to read in exchange for my fair and honest review.