Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Book Written by Gail Honeyman
Once I wrapped my head around the fact that this book is not supposed to be funny (like I had assumed), I appreciated it much more. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is masquerading as a simple story about a hermit with poor social skills, who eventually meets an equally awkward IT guy. Read the synopsis. Perhaps you’ll understand why I thought it was meant to be humorous.
But beyond moments, it’s really quite dark.
First, Eleanor is a solidly written character, with a defined voice (that reminds me of The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper). She makes you cringe. She makes you roll your eyes. And then there are the moments where your heart aches, when she describes her life’s daily repetition, of which we can all relate, and her utter aloneness, even when surrounded by people. She’s misunderstood and feels safer on her own, but she’s human. She’s not supposed to survive alone, and she begins to feel that pain.
The story is ultimately quite simple, and slowly pulls apart to reveal why Eleanor is so closed off to others, and why her personality has developed all of its…eccentricities. Thanks to the introduction of Raymond, Eleanor’s past begins to bubble up, and we bear witness to the subtle changes in her life. We watch her blossom, and experiment with being someone other than who she was forced into being.
I loved this book, and especially Raymond. He’s written entirely imperfectly. He’s not painted as a suave, sexy, or charming man. Instead, he’s written as an empathetic, kind, devoted man who sticks around long enough to see who a person is beyond the surface. He’s non-judgmental, and the true star of this book. It’s because of him Eleanor develops.
Memorable and hidden behind a layer of quirk, this story is a moving portrayal of past pains shaping who we grow into, and the deep, lasting hurt loneliness causes. We all need people to see us, and to stick by us.