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 unnecessary human contact, 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, the three rescue one another from the lives of isolation that they had been living. Ultimately, it is Raymond’s big heart that will help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one. If she does, she’ll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all.
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.
Let’s just start by saying that Eleanor Oliphant is completely not fine. At least when we first meet her. At first, Eleanor is not a particularly likable person. She is antisocial, overly particular about small details, a bit judgmental, and borderline stalker-ish at times. As you learn her backstory, though, it all starts to make sense. What you first see as odd eccentricities are revealed to be the products of childhood trauma, to the point that you are heartbroken that someone could have lived for thirty years like this.
The opinions surrounding this book are widely varied and very controversial. Some claim that Eleanor is a caricature, and that no one could actually have lived without the basic knowledge of the world around her that she lacks. Personally, I didn’t find her life to be impossible. Improbable, yes, but given the trauma she experienced and the way she reacted to it, definitely not impossible. An argument could be made that all of these characters were a bit of a caricature, but I personally found the odd bits were the things that made them all unique.
Another key complaint is that the plot was inconsistent and slow. I will grant that I would have appreciated it if the plot had been a bit more fleshed out at the end, but this isn’t a plot based book. The point of the story was how Eleanor grew as a person, not the events that caused her to do so. It was a very introspective book about hurt and healing, and the redemption narrative surrounding her mental health was beautiful and encouraging. So many people struggle with similar issues, and to see Eleanor go from broken to well on her way to healing is important.
Overall, this was not really a ‘fun’ book for me to read. It was heartrending (and sometimes painful) to watch Eleanor make her way, but it was beautiful to watch her grow. Plus her friendship with Raymond was precious.
Content warnings: There is some language scattered throughout, frequent consumption of alcohol, and a reference to attempted suicide.