Friday, July 7, 2017

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
By Gail Honeyman
Pamela Dorman Books, 2017. 336 pgs. Fiction

Eleanor Oliphant goes about each day the same way. She gets up, puts on a sensible outfit, does her work while ignoring her inane coworkers, eats lunch while completing a crossword puzzle, finishes her work, heads home, cooks and eats a frozen Margherita pizza, and drinks as much vodka as possible. She struggles to connect with other people and to numb the pain of her traumatic childhood. Nothing seems likely to change until an unwelcomed encounter with Raymond, the unkempt but friendly IT guy from work, and an elderly man named Sammy set off a chain reaction of events that might just save Eleanor from her isolation.

I found Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine delightful. Eleanor’s dry and insightful observations about other people, combined with her occasional cluelessness about herself and social norms, provide an entertaining contrast. I appreciated, however, that the humor is never really at Eleanor’s expense. Instead, I felt like the author depicts her protagonist with a compassion and respect that other books I’ve read about socially awkward characters don’t always show. I was surprised by the way that Eleanor’s backstory was dramatic, mysterious, and even a bit like a thriller – her unusual behavior makes perfect sense as her history is gradually revealed. In addition to that, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine has a whole lot of heart, in a way sure to charm fans of A Man Called Ove, Vinegar Girl, The Rosie Project, or Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.


1 comment:

Breanne said...

Eleanor Oliphant struggles with social skills and her schedule is rigidly structured by routine. Her life is disrupted when she meets the awkward IT guy from her office, Raymond, who begins to crack through Eleanor's carefully constructed shell. But as Eleanor starts to let new people into her life, more and more of her past is uncovered, shedding insight on her personality and forcing Eleanor to confront things she had long buried.

While initially off-putting, Eleanor is a character who grew on me and who I ended up relating to far more than I thought I would. I have been thinking about this book almost every day, long after finishing it, and I find myself searching the bookshelves for something that will approach its quirky charm and moving undertones. I listened to the audiobook, which is a superb production and the Scottish accents are beautifully (and even more importantly - coherently) read by Cathleen McCarron. Although the year isn't over, this may be perhaps my favorite of 2017.