Book Club: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
I have been on a Reese-Witherspoon-recommended book reading kick lately! Like Little Fires Everywhere, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is getting the movie treatment soon and as this book has been given rave reviews, I thought I'd give it a go and put in my two cents. I listened to the Audible version of it, complete with English/Scottish narration. Here are my thoughts.
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.
Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .
The only way to survive is to open your heart.
Related post: Book Club: Norse Mythology
Eleanor Oliphant is fine, but she's not great. Which is fine for her because why would one need to feel great?
Eleanor is a 29 year old accountant at a marketing firm who's all about her routine that she never strays from - Work her nine-to-five, buy her supermarket pizza and two bottles of vodka every Friday and then get buzzed all weekend alone, waiting for Monday to come. Eleanor is awkward, blunt, judgmental, and friendless. She is also incredibly lonely but she doesn't realize this.
Eleanor's life changes with two events: First, Eleanor develops a crush on a local musician in her area. She deludes herself into believing that if the two of them actually met they would have a grand love affair. She imagines their relationship together in various situations of her life and believes so fervently that when they actually meet, it would be love at first sight, despite it being obvious to the readers through the musician's twitter feed that they have nothing in common. Second, Eleanor and a co-worker rescue an elderly man suffering from a heart attack on the sidewalk. This rescue leads to a friendship with the co-worker, Raymond, and the elderly man, Sammy, and his family. Through opening up and developing an emotional connection with these people, Eleanor starts to come out of her shell.
As Eleanor starts to feel truly happy and not just "fine," she starts crashing and burning - she realizes truths about her musician crush, and her mother, who is seemingly in prison somewhere, constantly phones only to bring Eleanor down through verbal abuse and emotional manipulation. Eleanor may be fine, but she starts to realize she's not well, and she's lonely. This spirals her through a cycle of self-harm and depression and through her newfound friendships, she has a fighting chance to be more than just "fine."
I read an interview with Gail Honeyman, the writer, who was inspired to write this novel after reading a study that a lot of people in the world self-identify themselves as lonely. "These days, loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way," she writes. For Eleanor, it takes a small step towards opening up to someone you never thought you could to bring profound change in her life. As Honeyman states, “There are no dramatic acts of valour, nobody sweeps in and saves [her]. Little gestures enable her to save herself. We can all fight against loneliness by engaging in random acts of kindness.”
I recommend this book to all of my readers! This book is being turned into a movie by Reese Witherspoon and I can't wait until it gets the Hollywood treatment. While Eleanor Oliphant isn't a relatable person, her struggles definitely are.