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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

What the publisher said:  

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.

Then 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.

What my friend Emily said:

This book caught me completely unawares. It takes a serious, traumatic issue and weaves it into a warm, funny and, yes, sometimes sad tale. And what a joy it is. I think I like this book so much because it is actually really sad, but never manipulative

The central character of Eleanor is one of those well-developed and interesting characters that stays with you a long time. She feels instantly and insistently real, as if she had been patiently waiting in the wings for her cue all along. Most work places have an Eleanor: the slightly odd, carrier bag-clutching person who scuttles away from all group activities; who rarely says a word that isn’t about the matter in hand; whose home life can only be speculated about, not always kindly. She is socially clueless. She is literal to a degree that everyone finds odd. It’s painful to witness and yet so, so endearing.

On a surface level, it’s a very funny novel about a socially-inept twenty-nine year-old woman. Her attempts to become ‘normal’ and integrate into society by having manicures and waxes are sources of hilarity. But it is very sad. It’s sad when we see her colleagues talking about her, but Eleanor is oblivious to their scorn. It’s sad how alone in life she is. It’s sad when she falls in love with an idea of a person. There are hints that the central relationship will eventually develop into romance, but this is really a book about Eleanor.

I am thankful that the author didn’t cure Eleanor and lead her out of the darkness by having her fall in love. There is a twist at the end but, Eleanor Oliphant’s happy ending arrives eventually – as does the book’s wonderful, joyful message: it is never too late, for any of us.

I really enjoyed it. It’s great to find a book so packed full of emotion without seeming overly-sentimental. Tender- touching – and plenty of heart.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

by Gail Honeyman

Published May 9th 2017 by Viking – Pamela Dorman Books.