Book Review – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Book Review – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Book Review – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail HoneymanEleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Published by Pamela Dorman Books, Penguin Audio
Publication date: May 9, 2017
Genres: Women's Fiction
Narrator: Cathleen McCarron
Length: 11 hrs and 1 min
336 pages
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher

Smart, warm, uplifting, the 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 her heart.

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: she struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. That, combined with her unusual appearance (scarred cheek, tendency to wear the same clothes year in, year out), means that Eleanor has become a creature of habit (to say the least) and a bit of a loner. 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 kind of friends who rescue each other 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.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the story of a quirky yet lonely woman whose social misunderstandings and deeply ingrained routines could be changed forever—if she can bear to confront the secrets she has avoided all her life. But if she does, she’ll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all.

Story Locale: Glasgow, Scotland

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“…there is always, however remote it might seem, the possibility of change.”

Gail Honeyman’s charming, quirky, and resilient Eleanor Oliphant might just be one of my favorite characters I’ve met in a long time. Eleanor’s transformation from the woman she was in the beginning to the stronger, improved version of herself in the end was incredibly sad to read but also uplifting and inspiring at the same time.

“I do exist, don’t I? It often feels as if I’m not here, that I’m a figment of my own imagination. There are days when I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar. A strong gust of wind could dislodge me completely, and I’d lift off and blow away, like one of those seeds in a dandelion clock.”

Eleanor Oliphant is painfully socially inept and completely not attuned to social decencies, an outcome of her horrendous childhood. She spends her weekdays working in the finance department of a graphic design company and avoiding her judgmental co-workers and her weekends drinking the liter or two of vodka she purchases from her local convenience store. Her life is regimented, structured, and very, very boring. The monotony of her life interrupted when she and the new IT guy, Raymond, help an elderly man who passed out on the sidewalk after work. These chain of events and a little bit of fate take Eleanor on an emotional journey she wasn’t planning on taking but one she has needed for a very long time.

“My phone doesn’t ring often–it makes me jump when it does–and it’s usually people asking if I’ve been missold Payment Protection Insurance. I whisper I know where you live to them, and hang up the phone very, very gentle.

When I started this book, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Eleanor. She is blunt and judgmental. What comes out of her mouth is often unintentionally funny because she is just so emotionally and socially stunted. I laughed out loud quite a bit even though Eleanor wasn’t making jokes. Like, the time she went to get a bikini wax and the esthetician asked her if she wanted a Tiffani, Brazilian, or a Hollywood wax. Eleanor said, “Holly would, and so would Eleanor.” There is a naïveté and innocence to her character that is completely endearing and charming, though there were moments Honeyman was asking the reader to suspend disbelief a little too far. When I finished the novel, I realized that I came to love Eleanor along the way, all the crooked and unique parts of her character.

A philosophical question: if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? And if a woman who’s wholly alone occasionally talks to a pot plant, is she certifiable? I think that it is perfectly normal to talk to oneself occasionally. It’s not as though I’m expecting a reply. I’m fully aware that Polly is a houseplant.

This book reminded me so much of an off-the-wall indie movie, complete with quirky characters and a great friendship storyline. I reach a point about a third of the way where I just loved where Honeyman was taking the story.

The cast of characters in this novel was what made it that much more enjoyable. We meet Raymond, the new guy at work, who Eleanor describes as an unattractive overweight man who smokes and walks on the balls of his feet. What he lacks in conventional beauty, he makes up for in heart. He’s such a good guy who loves his mom and over time, comes to really care about Eleanor. Sammy, the older gentleman Eleanor and Raymond help, is vivacious, sprite, and so great!

“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 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.”

But the highlight of the novel was seeing Eleanor blossom and start to deal with her own pain. Despite the title, Eleanor Oliphant wasn’t completely fine but she will be. Uplifting and hopeful, this novel is one I will come back to, just so I can spend time with Eleanor just a little bit longer.

Audiobook Comments:

After reading this book, I picked it right back up again on audiobook. The audiobook is really great and I really loved the narrator’s Eleanor. Her dry, deadpan delivery was absolutely perfect! Highly recommended!

* Thanks to the Penguin First Reads program and Penguin Random House Audio for providing me a review copy for review!

Teaser - Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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