Synopsis from Goodreads:
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. All this means that Eleanor has become a creature of habit (to say the least) and a bit of a loner.
But 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.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of a quirky yet lonely woman whose social misunderstandings and deeply ingrained routines could be changed forever—if she can bear to confront the secrets she has avoided all her life. But if she does, she’ll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all.
As insufferable as Eleanor would be in real life, it is impossible not to love her. She has this quirky innocence behind her rough exterior that makes you just want to give her a big hug….although she probably wouldn’t want you touching her. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Eleanor suffered great verbal abuse and maltreatment from her mother. While many people speculate that Eleanor might have Asperger’s, I disagree with this theory. I think her anti-social skills are simply a lack of witnessing healthy human relationships. When these relationships ARE modeled by Sammy and Raymond, she quickly accepts them. An Asperger’s patient wouldn’t do that.
What I Liked:
It blows my mind that this is a debut novel. Honeyman did an amazing job of making Eleanor both lovable and insufferable, hilarious and humorless, and intelligent yet naive. And, let’s be honest….who among us haven’t wanted to look at our co-workers and roll our eyes at some point?
I would split this novel into two parts in my mind: Before and After Eleanor’s Break Down. The beginning of the book is light & airy, making you crave Eleanor’s dry wit white simultaneously loving her reinvention. My favorite line of the book came from her trip to the hair salon, where she looked up at the hair dresser and said, “’You’ve made me shiny, Laura,’ I said. I tried to stop it, but a litter tear ran down the side of my nose. I wiped it away with the back of my hand before it could damped the ends of my new hair. ‘Thank you for making me shiny.’” I think a lot of women can relate to Eleanor here, where ONE makeover or haircut stops your negative self-talk for just a moment and you see YOURSELF as beautiful. It is these excerpts that make the book feel like a romantic comedy. and you’re just waiting for Reece Witherspoon to before you.
After the breakdown, the tone of the book changes somewhat. Eleanor’s behavior in the first part of the book seemed quirky. Those same behaviors in the second half take on a darker feeling, and you see Eleanor for what she is— a deeply troubled, depressed alcoholic. But, Eleanor had to reach rock bottom so that she could rise from the ashes, and the is exactly what she did. As she begins to enjoy the warmth of human interaction, learns that caring for others feels good (especially when it’s a cuddly black cat that is as abused and no-nonsense as you are), and experiences unconditional love and care from a good friend, you truly see Eleanor as a phoenix rising. The world is now her oyster.
What I didn’t like:
Really, there is not much I didn’t like. I guess I missed some of the dry humor that was in the first half, but that’s more of me being nitpicky in my criticism.
Would I recommend this book:
I will gush to people about this book. It’s a lighthearted read that surprisingly deals with heavy issues like parental abuse, alcoholism, and even brief mentions of physical and sexual abuse. Overall, though, you feel like you are walking alongside Eleanor as she deals with her social awkwardness and tries to reinvent herself. Whether our pasts are as dark as Eleanor’s, we all have moments that we wish to put behind us. More than anything, “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” is a celebration of a humanity’s ability to address and overcome those tough moments and emerge stronger than ever before.