"Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine", by Gail Honeyman - Book Review

Oh Eleanor, you’re completely wonderful! You will go down on my list of favorite main characters.

Eleanor, a single thirty-year old living in Glasgow, has worked the same job since she was 21. She is a woman of routine. She goes to work, 9-5, five days a week and on Friday after work gets take home pizza and enough vodka to keep her not too drunk/not too sober to make it to Monday morning when she starts the whole process all over again.

While, at first, I was convinced she had Asperger’s syndrome or something comparable, as the book goes on, it becomes clear that while she might be on the spectrum, much of her odd, detached behavior relates to her incredibly dysfunctional relationship with her mother. As a reader, you learn early on that Eleanor’s mother is in some distant place that prevents her from causing Eleanor physical harm but certainly not emotional.

Eleanor begins to come out of her shell after forming an unlikely alliance with Raymond, an IT guy who works in her office. Quite by happenstance, they help an elderly man, Sammy, who passes out on a public road. The story then tracks Eleanor’s evolution after forming some genuine personal connections.

At times, Eleanor is delightfully awkward, at others, laughably inappropriate, and yet others, heartbreakingly vulnerable. As to the former, after getting a makeover, Eleanor exclaims, “I look like a small Madagascan primate or perhaps a North American raccoon. It’s charming!” For the latter, Honeyman writes of Eleanor, “Grief is the price we pay for love, so they say. The price is far too high.”

But Eleanor is a true survivor both in the physical and emotional sense and with the help of Raymond, Sammy, her boss and a good therapist, she discovers that she can love and is also loveable. Honeyman writes about family trauma with a razor’s edge but she clearly believes in hope and helps Eleanor find it. As I read, I felt like cheering, “go, Eleanor, go!” and for thanking the other characters that took time to see what was in that damaged, yet huge, heart of hers.

Published:  2017
Publisher:  Pamela Dorman Books

Elizabeth's rating: 4.5 stars