Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Published by Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group on May 9, 2017
Genre(s): fiction, contemporary
Format & Length: audiobook, 11:09:10
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Eleanor Oliphant is a bit of an odd ball. She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. That, combined with her unusual appearance (scarred cheek, sometime wearer of an eczema glove), means that Eleanor has become a bit of a loner – or ‘self-contained entity’ as she calls it. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life and phone chats with ‘Mummy’ (in prison for crimes unknown).
But everything changes when Eleanor falls for the local Hipster-band frontman, Johnnie Rivers. As Eleanor prepares herself for her inevitable union with the object of her desire (appropriate attire, new laptop for Instagram stalking), she inadvertently befriends the new guy from her office, Raymond.
As Eleanor navigates the waters of obsessive love and her long-distance relationship with ‘Mummy’, she realises she can only overcome the horrors of her past if she accepts a little help from Raymond…
Filled with unabashed wit, Eleanor Oliphant follows its quirky and troubled female narrator as she realises that the only way to survive her current state of mind is to open her heart to friendship.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was, in fact, more than fine. This remarkable debut by Gail Honeyman hit all the right notes for me.
“I aspire to average.”
I had seen a fair number of rave reviews for this book since its release this May, prompting me to bookmark both the e-book and audio versions in my library app. (I don’t know about you, but I tend to hem and haw over which books I should listen to on audio, so I like to flag both to know what all my options are and then decide later when I feel less indecisive.) The audiobook came available first, so I borrowed it thinking I could always return it in favor of the e-book if necessary. Well. I was not disappointed. Cathleen McCarron narrated this brilliantly. Her accent was on point, pulling me immediately into the setting, and she gave each character their own unique voice. Hearing this book read so smoothly only served to add to the experience.
“What, I wondered, was the point of me?”
Eleanor Oliphant was a fascinating character. She is quirky, something of a loner, and lacking social skills. After only a few short chapters, I found I could relate to her on several accounts. As a certified introvert, there was a certain appeal to all the quiet time Eleanor seemed to have. Eleanor’s dislike of the constant company outings and parties she had to not only attend but also drop money for, and her questioning the reason why two adults getting married should receive household presents from others despite the fact that they presumably each already own kitchen utensils and the like, first had me giggling up a storm and then gave me pause to think, Hey, she’s kind of right! There was something about her eccentricity and utter directness that was delightfully charming.
“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you haven’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”
Although there were plenty of laugh out loud moments, this isn’t what I would call a happy book. I would call it a realistic book. It deals with some tough subjects and themes, including loneliness, trauma, and mental health, and does so in a way that is sympathetic and endearing. I don’t want to say too much else so as to avoid spoilers, so let me end with this: I highly recommend this poignant novel.