Review – “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman

Now, if you’ve read this book, you’d probably think why should you read this review. But I’d suggest otherwise. Give it a read, not because it would make my post popular but because I might have something to say that would connect with you.
For the longest time, I was suffering from a reader’s block. I still suffer from it, but now it’s just bouts before I get my hands on a new “worth it” book. I am past that age and timeline of a reader’s life when books were picked just for the heck of it. Now, my books should entice me and mean something in the long run, unless I am reviewing it professionally. Finally, when my thirst for reading got the better of the block, I found myself looking through the library and voila! Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman had been on my list and kindle for quite some time now and I saw no reason to procrastinate further.

Being a back-office worker in a creative field is no doubt a tough job. Despite your ability to perform your own job with finesse, you are mostly judged on not being up to date on the creative end, which actually isn’t your job at all. But such things didn’t bother Eleanor. Eleanor, you see, was almost 30, and when she could live to this age without much social interaction, she could live further.
She always found herself the center of mockery amongst her colleagues. One such incident was when after a reluctant night out with one of her male colleagues, she overhears the others talking about it. Apparently, they only seemed to be bothered about her abandoning the said male in the midst of the so-called date and not about the fact that she had found her the love of her life in the lead band member! How naive of them to worry about trivial insults when compared to the magnanimity of a lifetime of true love apparently.
Although most made fun, there was one who seemed genuinely interested in her. Raymond, who worked in the IT department of Eleanor’s company found a reluctant friend in her and ended up getting close to her with each passing day. Much to Eleanor’s hesitancy, she too finds herself drawing closer to him, not in the way you imagine. With their friendship, if it could be called that, deepening, Raymond’s interest in Eleanor’s past reveals shocking truths which she was avoiding confrontation with. With her past life now laid bare before her, Eleanor must find a way to deal, accept, and live with it.

When I had begun with this book, I had no feelings about it. What to expect or not to expect, except that it had a peculiar title and a strange cover design. But some pages into it and I was hooked and started to understand the meaning of both. Not the regular excited to read kinda hooked but something that said that it would turn out to be an interesting read. And I wasn’t disappointed. I didn’t know at that time that it would be enlightening as well. Dealing with a number of issues, the story wasn’t loaded at all. The writing seemed to float through the sensitivity of some topics so beautifully that it was hard to not understand and empathize with the very vulnerable protagonist. Mind you, when I say this, it means a lot since according to my husband, I am the world’s worst empathizer. Seamlessly woven were the issues, parenting, childhood trauma, social behavior, personal growth, loneliness, and mental health amongst a few.
Eleanor is shown, to begin with, a troubled character. Whether it is only her social awkwardness that brings out the weirdness in her, is hard to deduce. Is her loneliness self inflicted, who is to say? Her weekend drinking which results in her being locked up in her apartment from Friday night until Monday morning when she has to return to work looks fine on the outside but is so saddening. Building walls around oneself is hard and breaking them takes courage. Her social interactions, or lack of it, also brings out the naivety in her. She is happy with a simple haircut and thinks the hairdresser made her all “shiny”. On the other hand, she is offended with the fast-food culture but finds comfort in it herself when she heats a pizza for herself for dinner. The layers unfold as one delves further into her life and they prove to be much deeper than her eczema-prone skin. Glimpses of her past are shown when she visits her therapist. Her experiences with foster care bring out the truth about being an outsider in a family. Although I wasn’t able to make out everything in detail, I had a clear idea of what her past held. But the book isn’t about what happened, it is more about the consequences of it.
The most striking aspect of the whole story for me was the relationship between Eleanor and her “here but not here” mother. One might wonder, how could a way of one person’s life affect someone else in a way such that it paves the way for that someone’s whole life. That someone’s thinking and behavior, and their whole lives revolve around that one person’s ever-looming shadow, long after their separation.
Are there still people like Eleanor in today’s times? Despite having everything at their disposal, from the internet to social care workers, how can one person let another torment them for so long? Shouldn’t she have reached out for help? She would have if she had thought that something was wrong with her. Yes, Eleanor believes it’s the others who behave weird and not her. And it is Eleanor who tells us that it’s never too late.


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