Published by Cengage Gale on 2017
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
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No one's ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine. 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. 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. Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . . The only way to survive is to open your heart.
Eleanor Oliphant is completely 100% fine. She goes to her office job five days a week and then treats herself to a frozen pizza and a bottle of vodka on a weekend. She lives alone and doesn’t have any friends, but that’s okay. She’s doing real well, thank you very much.
Except maybe she isn’t.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine caught me completely unawares. I’ll be honest – I picked it up because it got some buzz and the author is British, but it actually turned out to be one of those perfectly-balanced sad/funny books. Maybe like some combination of The Rosie Project, Me Before You, Finding Audrey and A Man Called Ove. It takes a serious, traumatic issue and weaves it into a warm, funny and, yes, sometimes sad tale.
I read a lot of books and many characters come and go. Some are well-developed and interesting, others less so. But on a rare occasion I find one of those truly memorable characters that will stay with me a long time. Eleanor is one of them. She is socially clueless in a way that puts my teen self to shame. She is literal to a degree that everyone finds odd. It’s painful to witness and yet so, so endearing.
I think I like this book so much because it is actually really sad, but never manipulative. 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 coworkers 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.
It’s not a romantic book and I’m glad. 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. Being happy and achieving greater self-worth should, in my opinion, never be linked to romance.
I really enjoyed it. It’s great to find a book so packed full of emotion without seeming overly-sentimental.