I hope y’all are having a good Monday and it’s warming up at your house like it is here after a surprisingly cold weekend.
I am really excited to share some thoughts on a book that is unique and courageous, different and relatable. I have never read anything quite like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. And I loved the new experience!
I first heard about this book when I came across Jackie’s review back in January. Jackie is a dear bookish friend of mine and if she recommends a book as highly as she recommends this one, you better believe I will be adding it to my TBR as soon as I can! I am so glad I did!
- I love so many things about this book–the writing, the storytelling, Eleanor’s journey, Raymond’s friendship. It’s amazing how heartwarming and heartbreaking it is simultaneously.
- Eleanor’s voice as narrator is quirky, fun, and unique. No one sees the world quite like she does!
- There are truly dark moments in this book. There are things that we don’t usually talk about. It was uncomfortable for me a few times. But I think it is worthwhile to have these kinds of discussion, to talk about things that make us uncomfortable. Because in reading about Eleanor’s deeply personal struggles, I connected with her and with others in my life. Those connections continue to give me strength. We don’t have to do everything alone.
- I am super intrigued by the news that this novel will be a movie. How will they will portray the intricacies of this story? I am excited to see.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman is the story of a quirky, isolated woman who discovers that living can be more than just existing. Goodreads summarizes, “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.”
“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.”
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Eleanor is unlike any protagonist I have read about, and I just loved her for it. She is quirky, different, witty, and sometimes just weird. She says what she’s thinking, and she often sees the world in a different way than most of us. She doesn’t really understand how to interact with other people in healthy ways. She likes routines–quirky, strict routines. She doesn’t have much interaction with anyone, until she meets Raymond. She says what she’s thinking, and she often sees the world in a different way than most of us. Yes, she experiences some dramatic trials in her life both physically and mentally. We read about some intense moments for her, from details of her difficult childhood to her unstable addiction to vodka. Eleanor isn’t perfect. But I love the way Eleanor overcomes her troubles and finds joy and purpose in her life. She discovers the power of friendship, the importance of balance, and the freedom of letting go. I think we all have felt a little like Eleanor at some point. We feel disconnected, stuck in our isolating routines, and we are social awkward. But the beauty of Eleanor’s story is that it teaches us that change is possible. Freedom is possible. Joy and meaning are possible. I need all of that.
Raymond is probably my favorite character in this book because he is just so human. He is not perfect. He smokes, he doesn’t dress well. And he seems to have unfortunate table manners. But he is a truly good man. He cares about people. He connects with them. From Sammy to his mother to Eleanor, he is sincere with others. And he is seriously a good friend. I love the friendship that blossoms between him and Eleanor. It saves both of them. Raymond is a tribute to the power in each of us to be a friend and to love others. He shows me that strength doesn’t come from perfection, but from sincere interest in others. Friendship doesn’t have to be complicated or even exactly what you expect. It needs to be positive and needs to lift people to become better.
“In principle and reality, libraries are life-enhancing palaces of wonder”
“There must be some people for whom difficult behavior wasn’t a reason to end their relationship with you. If they liked you. . . then, it seemed, they were prepared to maintain contact, even if you were sad, or upset, or behaving in very challenging ways. This was something of a revelation.”
“These days, loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted, or that it might tempt fate into visiting a similar horror upon them.”
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
The way this story is told is also so unique. You don’t get the full story until the end of the book, but the way each detail is slowly revealed is so intriguing. I was so invested in Eleanor’s story. I kept thinking I would read just one more chapter then would find myself reading for an hour or more. You don’t learn the full story until the end of the novel. Along the way, there are joyful moments and dark moments. Moments of clarity and of confusion. But throughout the story, the characters and the readers are learning, growing, and connecting.
Honeyman’s writing style is just lovely. The descriptions are poignant and clever. I think the style adds to the ease of getting invested in this story. Honeyman offers readers equally brilliant moments of humor and sadness, happiness and pain, strength and powerlessness, hope and devestation, connection and isolation. And the fusing of all these topics makes Eleanor Oliphant such a unique and powerful story. This story is sad. There are hard topics discussed–abuse, depression, anxiety, disease, death. But the way they are woven into the story is hopeful and full of healing. I finished this book feeling empowered and very emotional moved.
If I have one qualm about this novel, it is that the ending wraps up a bit quick. We only just get the last piece of the mystery of Eleanor’s past and it ends. I would have liked an epilogue that showed Eleanor’s progress in a year or more.
Again, I have never read anything like Eleanor Oliphant. The style, the writing, the story were so engaging. I was drawn into the story from the first page and didn’t want to put it down. A truly beautiful story that changed the way I view people and everything we go through!
Have you read Eleanor yet? What did you think?
What other books surprised you in how much they teach?