ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman

“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 somewhat 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 smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey.”

This description makes the book sound cheerfully fun, and it is not.  Oh, sure, it has its fun moments, but at its core, it is about a child who has survived terrible abuse at the hands of her mentally deranged mother, a mother who set the family home on fire in an attempt to get rid of her two young daughters.  Eleanor remembers nothing of this, only her time after a stint in the burns unit of the hospital and her parade of care homes and foster placements, and a two year period with an abusive boyfriend.

She speaks in an overly formal manner, is stiff and prudish, and prefers to act and dress in ways that make her almost invisible.  She is the butt of behind-the-hands jokes at the office, where she is in charge of accounting, an exacting task that completely suits her.

Pressured into attending a leaving party in a bar for a coworker , she sees a mediocre singer and develops a crush on him,  and begins to transform herself, bit by bit, with a manicure, a hair cut, some new clothes.   She has some dopey idea they are destined to be together, and she goes to one of his gigs, where he completely ignores her, as if she were invisible, and she has a mental melt down, finally understanding just how out of touch she is.  She goes on a drinking binge, and after four days not showing up at work, the IT guy comes looking for her, and rescues her from alcohol poisoning. He pressures her to see a doctor, who pressures her to see a therapist, which starts her on the road to mental recovery.

It was a heart warming book, charming in showing her naivety and eccentricities, and we find ourselves cheering her on, confident she will finally find her way.

 

 

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