“Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine” (2017) by Gail Honeyman
“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.” – Eleanor Oliphant
It is impossible not to care about Eleanor, even when she is frustrating, misguided, self-destructive, delusional, and judgemental. Because with all that Eleanor is also vulnerable, insecure, lost, big-hearted, and lonely. She lacks social skills, and at times seemed to be “on the spectrum” (I’m not 100% sure she is not). Most of it, though, I believe to have been in direct correlation to neglect, trauma, and terrible loss at a very young age. Being bounced around in the system, and living a very isolated life, didn’t help either.
But, as the book unpacks Eleanor, and her story, she begins to change her life. People begin to fill in parts of it. She starts to open up to possibilities, albeit some of them impossible and unrequited ones.
Eleanor wants what we all want. To belong. To not be lonely. To be loved and understood. She also wants to forgive herself for things she perceives as her fault (though none of them were). She hits a significant bottom before climbing and changing her way up, and at times the journey is hard to take. But, as each page was turned, I cared more and more about her.
The trauma in this book is heart-wrenching and rough to read. Her pain and loneliness are, too. This book was very hard on me at times, but it also made me realize some pretty big things about myself.
Though I was brought to tears at times, the book also has funny moments and moments of both hope and discovery, and moments of unconditional love – the one thing Eleanor longs for.
Anyone who has survived trauma, especially in childhood, who struggle with the social “norms”, feel lonely or are trying to not just get by, but to be happy, will enjoy this book. I’m almost 100% sure you will care about Eleanor, too. And Raymond, too.
I really enjoyed that the ending wasn’t what I exactly expected. That it was all about Eleanor in the end, and that everything wasn’t fixed, but that there was a huge amount of HOPE. And, that as I finished the last few words I believed that Eleanor was going to be fine, with a little help from her friends, and Glen the cat, and herself
I “read” this book via an Audiobook. It was narrated by Cathleen McCarron. I listen to a lot of audio books because I have a long, Los Angeles traffic commute. The narrator/voice talent was excellent and captured Eleanor so perfectly. She was Eleanor, to me.
I highly recommend both the book and the audiobook of “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine”.