Saturday, June 24, 2017
Book Review: "Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine" by Gail Honeyman
But the more time I spent with Eleanor Oliphant, I realized that her behavior was more the result of circumstance than will, nurture if you will, rather than nature. And then I thought about how boring the world might be if everyone acted the way they were expected to, said the right things, and never expressed their true feelings. (Lord knows if I couldn't roll my eyes, my head might explode.)
Eleanor lives by her routines. She eats the same meals, wears the same clothes, has her weekly chat with Mummy, and has her weekend rituals, which include frozen pizza and enough vodka to keep her pleasantly drunk all weekend. For the most part, she eschews interactions with her coworkers, whom she mostly thinks are daft and lazy. They make fun of her both behind her back and in front of her, and she doesn't really care.
"I do not light up a room when I walk into it. No one longs to see me or hear my voice. I do not feel sorry for myself, not in the least. These are simply statements of fact."
Two things happen which throw her routines off-kilter. First, while attending a concert with a coworker, she spots a handsome musician and is quickly smitten. She has decided that he is the one for her, and starts to ready herself for their first encounter, during which she knows he'll sweep her off her feet and they'll live happily ever after. She needs a makeover and new clothes, and she starts doing research on her soon-to-be-beloved.
Meanwhile, one afternoon she and Raymond, the IT guy from her office, whom she considers poorly groomed and a bit bumbling, save the life of an elderly man who falls in front of them. Saving Sammy's life suddenly gives Eleanor two unexpected relationships, friendships, that she has never had before. She still acts the way she believes to be appropriate, and says things that most wouldn't, but she begins liking the feeling of belonging, of companionship, which she never realized she wanted.
"Some people, weak people, fear solitude. What they fail to understand is that there's something very liberating about it, once you realize that you don't need anyone, you can take care of yourself. That's the thing: it's best just to take care of yourself. You can't protect other people, however hard you try. You try, and you fail, and your world collapses around you, burns down to ashes."
Eleanor's social awkwardness, her lack of a filter, her inability to grasp exactly how people expect her to behave, actually hides a great deal of secret pain, pain and memories even she has hidden. And when she is forced to start recognizing just what a burden she has carried for so much of her life, and who was responsible, it threatens to break her. Suddenly she realizes she may need to do something she never hasdepend on others, and reveal things about herself she's always kept hidden, in order to move forward. If she wants to.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is really a special book. Even if some of Eleanor's behaviors are similar to other quirky characters you might have seen, she is totally unique, and while off-putting, just absolutely wonderful. You both marvel and are saddened by the burdens she has carried, and how she copes with them. I found myself becoming protective of her, worrying there would come an instant where someone made a total fool out of her (with her own help, of course).
Honeyman really did a terrific job with Eleanor. Even as she began letting down her guard, Honeyman kept her character consistent, but never let her become unsympathetic. While this is certainly Eleanor's story, I liked the other characters as well, although they certainly didn't get as much attention. I thought the ending was a little too pat for my taste, but I really enjoyed this overall, and don't think I'll be forgetting Eleanor or her story anytime soon.
God bless the people who challenge our notions of "appropriate" and "normal," because they are what keeps our world interesting!