When I started reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, I didn’t know what to expect.
In comparison to other books I have read, this book had the least exposure, which is understandable since this is Honeyman’s first novel. The book begins with an introduction of the story’s protagonist, Eleanor Oliphant. The title is self-explanatory and completely accurate. Eleanor is a twenty-nine-year-old woman who works an office job while “weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.” Despite her lack of social skills, Eleanor lives a completely normal life and remains satisfied with the way things are. She follows a set routine each day and refrains from any changes, whether it be completing a Daily Telegraph crossword puzzle at every lunch or not getting a haircut since she was thirteen. Likewise, I became bored with the lack of excitement in Eleanor’s life. However, the true plot of the book is eventually revealed when Eleanor meets Raymond, the IT guy at her workplace, and Sammy, an elderly man who stumbles on the sidewalk.
As insignificant as it may seem, this single, unintentional interaction between the three of them upends Eleanor’s ordinary life. Through Honeyman’s writing, I felt as if I was Eleanor, uncovering the shattered pieces of her terrible, broken past. Her trauma feels real, and the story shows how easily people can hide their pain and claim that they are “absolutely fine.” With the guidance of Raymond, Eleanor learns that she needs help to navigate the troubles in her life. As I experienced the consequences of bottling up one’s feelings, the book made me reflect on how open I am to the assistance of others, and it challenged me to embrace my vulnerability. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a beautiful, dark, but uplifting novel about the power of friendship during times of loneliness. It deals with the struggles of denial and acceptance while maintaining a hopeful light through bits of humor and small moments of kindness.
Despite the obvious flaws of Eleanor, she remains a lovable character that many readers can relate to. Although admitting the validity of our emotions is not an easy task, the story demonstrates the necessity of doing so.
“These days, loneliness is the new cancer—a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted, or that it might tempt fate into visiting a similar horror upon them.” –Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
This post is part of a book review blog, titled M & M’s Library. Read the introduction to the blog here.