Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
By Gail Honeyman
Not My Edition:
Paperback, 325 pages
Eleanor struggles with what many would consider normal social interactions – she says exactly what she’s thinking and as a result, tends not to have any friends. But she doesn’t need any friends. She has a job, she has her weekend habits involving pizza and vodka, and regular phone calls with her mother. When she meets Raymond, the IT guy at the office, however, she slowly begins to see just how much she’s missing out on.
I read this because Mum recommended it (actually, she told me I had to read it) and then almost immediately let me borrow her copy. I decided to give her a break and read it right away. I’m glad I did!
If you ever recommend a book to me, it will go one of two ways. I’ll buy/borrow it right away and read it right away, or I’ll buy it right away and never friggen’ read it. Not because I don’t want to, but because my TBR is insane and I’m in way over my head. (Ok, I guess there is a third way, where I’m not actually interested in reading the book, but whatever.)
In this case, since Mum loaned me her copy, I really felt I ought to read it so I could get it back to her quickly (only it’s been sitting in my review pile on my desk for weeks now). One of the reasons I don’t lend books is because people don’t get them back to me quick enough, so I hate to be someone who borrows a book for ages.
I asked Mum why she thought I should read this and she said she figured I’d like Eleanor and her quirkiness, because she’s someone you can root for. Mum loved the book and said Eleanor reminded her of Sheldon (she recently binged Big Bang Theory) in that she’s brutally honest and sometimes comical, but the subject matter of the book isn’t truly funny. Mum felt Eleanor might be somewhere on the spectrum – it’s never addressed in the book, but I think it’s possible too. Mum also added, “This book was a nice reminder of the power of friendship and finding ‘family’ outside of the norm.”
I think this book is fantastic. It’s funny, poignant, and the ending – woo boy – really threw me for a loop! While reading I was laughing, frowning, and cringing. Eleanor is both relatable and also painfully socially awkward. And lonely – at times, her loneliness was painful to me, especially because a lot of the time it wasn’t obvious to Eleanor just how lonely she was. Since I can’t do this book justice with my review, I’m just going to leave you with some quotes I loved.
Eleanor eats fast food for the first time (I dig the Pride & Prejudice reference):
“After some contemplation, I had opted for a square of indeterminate white fish, which was coated in bread crumbs and deep fried and then inserted between an overly sweet bread bun, accompanied, bizarrely, by a processed cheese slice, a limp lettuce leaf and some salty, tangy white slime which bordered on obscenity. I am no epicure; however, surely it is a culinary truth universally acknowledged that fish and cheese do not go together? Someone really ought to tell Mr. McDonald.”
I was pleasantly surprised by Eleanor’s thoughts on tattoos – I thought she’d be judgy or at least confused:
“How marvelous to be able to read someone’s skin, to explore the story of his life across his chest, his arms, the softness at the back of his neck.”
Her description of graphic design clients was spot on (I’ve had some experience there):
“From what I could gather, they would routinely be completely unable to articulate their requirements, wat which point, in desperation, the designers would create some artwork for them based on the few vague hints they had managed to elicit. After many hours of work, involving a full team of staff, the work would be submitted to the client for approval. At that point, the client would say, ‘No. That’s exactly what I don’t want.’”
If you didn’t know, I love SpongeBob. As you might imagine, SpongeBob references in literature tend to be a rarity. So Eleanor sees a SpongeBob helium balloon and asks if it’s cheese. Never having heard of him she describes him as “A semi-human bath sponge with protruding front teeth! On sale as if it were something completely unremarkable!” That gave me a good laugh. She’s not wrong!
Eleanor gets a cat and shares my view of…when they clean up their own mess…:
“She followed me into the kitchen and I gave her some water, which she ignored, and some kibble, which she bolted down and promptly vomited back up onto the kitchen floor. I turned away to get some cleaning materials from under the sink, but when I looked around, she was eating her sick back up again.”
Lastly, a sad, yet often true, observation:
“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.”
I definitely recommend this book if you’re looking for:
+ Literary fiction with a focus on friendship and found family
+ Fiction that deals with mental health
+ An engaging read that will make you laugh, feel uncomfortable, and maybe even cry