Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I am actually a bit ahead of the game and have completed our book club's selection for February a little early. I have had my eye on this one for a while and Rob bought it for me just before Christmas so I wanted to get started on it as soon as I could.

Wow. This book grabbed me right from the start and I read it fairly quickly, even though I've been pretty busy lately. I had to put a stop to things last night at midnight with only 30 pages left to go and was able to finish it this morning.

Eleanor Oliphant is a fascinating character, I haven't met anyone like her in real life or fiction in a long, long time. It is very clear from the beginning of the book that Eleanor has been the victim of some serious abuse and trauma at the hands of her mother, but it takes until the final pages of the book to really figure out what that means and what she has endured. She has physical and emotional scars that affect her every day. There was one twist at the end that actually made me gasp out loud! That has only ever happened two other times (in Gone With the Wind and I Know This Much is True for those keeping track).

As a result of this trauma, Eleanor's life has been very lonely. She was in and out of foster homes through her teen years and then lived on her own from the age of 17 on. She goes to work, she goes home, her routine is very established. She eats the same things, enjoys a drink and a program on the radio and goes to bed. She doesn't need anyone else, and no one has ever needed her.

Then she goes to a concert with a co-worker and discovers the man of her dreams. The singer captivates her and she is convinced they will have a happy life together and tries to prepare herself for that new relationship. At the same time, she and a co-worker help a man on the street who has a medical emergency. Is it possible that someone could need her after all?

All my life, I have been heartbroken by the loneliness of others. I am an extreme extrovert who refuels by spending time with people. The thought of living such a lonely life overwhelms me. I ached with Eleanor and struggled to see her struggle.

At the same time, I loved her personality. She has a great vocabulary, she sees the world in very defined ways and anything outside her expectation is hard for her to process. Her genuine surprise at what most people would consider normal activities was pretty funny at times. Gail Honeyman has created a fantastic character and I absolutely loved reading about her.

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