Gail Honeyman’s debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, has been the best book I’ve read so far this summer. No joke. This is a book I would never have picked for myself, but it came in my July box from Novel Editions, so I gave it a go, and now I can’t thank Alex (the founder/curator of Novel Editions) enough for sharing such a wonderful story.
When I first unwrapped this book and took a look at the cover, I wasn’t excited at all. It looked like something my Mom might read, and the description sounded like it was the Scottish version of The Rosie Project. But I was wrong. Super wrong. I’m sorry, Eleanor Oliphant, for judging you based on your cover!
Eleanor lives her life by a strict routine. Monday through Friday she goes to work, eats her pasta with pesto, and has regular phone calls with her “Mummy” every Wednesday night. On weekends, she treats herself to a pizza, and a couple bottles of vodka, which helps get her through to Monday morning. She never goes out, as she has no friends. The only constant in her life is her houseplant, Polly, which she has had since she was a child.
I found myself relating to Eleanor a lot. She has an incredibly difficult time making friends, and doesn’t fully understand popular culture or societal ‘norms.’ Reading about her first manicure and waxing experiences hit close to home (who isn’t a little traumatized the first time they get a wax?!), and made me laugh out loud. On the flip side, though, her struggle with loneliness reminded me all too much about difficult periods in my life, and nearly brought me to tears more than once.
One line in particular nearly broke my heart:
“When the silence and the aloneness press down and around me, crushing me, carving through me like ice, I need to speak aloud sometimes, if only for proof of life.”
I’ve been fighting an upward battle with my anxiety and depression over the past year, but this line made me want to curl up in a ball and cry. I’ve known loneliness of this magnitude, and it always breaks my heart to see someone, even fictional, struggle through it.
Naturally, I was over the moon when Eleanor meets, and slowly but surely, becomes friends with Raymond. Raymond is the first person she meets who doesn’t care about her quirks; he just wants her to be happy. Eleanor and Raymond form a true friendship, and it’s incredibly heartwarming. He helps her realize her self-worth and importance in the world. He literally picks her up off the ground, and helps her get back on her feet during a difficult time of need. I don’t even want to imagine where Eleanor would be without him. This book is worth the read just to see their friendship unfold: it is a wonderful example of the importance, and value, of human relationships.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is worth reading for other reasons, too. Yes, it shows an incredible female character’s triumph over her horrifying past. And yes, the writing is beautiful, and does a perfect job of bringing the characters to life. But there is also a plot twist that will leave you reeling for days after reading it! I bet you won’t even see it coming, because I sure didn’t expect such a wholesome story to take such a spin.
If you’re looking for a story that will make you laugh and cry, pick up a copy of this book. You’ll find yourself cheering for Team Eleanor before you know it. I promise.