Book of the Month: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

For the longest time, every time I read Money Diaries, I would find some reference or another to this book. Someone was always reading it and they were always in awe of how fantastic a book it was. So I started to get curious. Years later, it finally occurred to me to look for this book in my local library. And let me just say, what a brilliant book!

The book of the month is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. The book tells the story of a quirky social misfit, socially awkward Eleanor. In a lot of ways, it is this book's humor that entices you, until you are so far gone you realize the depth, suspense, and complexities it entails. NPR describes the protagonist, Eleanor as "a quirky loner and a model of efficiency with her routine of frozen pizza, vodka and weekly phone calls with Mummy. [She’s] a woman beginning to heal from unimaginable tragedy, with a voice that is deadpan, heartbreaking and humorous all at once." 

I agree. 

I don't know how to tell a summary of this book without giving you spoilers. I will say I went into it blindly. I literally had no idea (NONE whatsoever) what the book was about and only read it because everyone had mentioned what a great book it was. I am asking you to trust me and go on a similar journey as well. I will say, I could never do this for films. Books, on the other hand, I'm quite willing to take that risk for. 

This book is about abuse, mental illness, and loneliness. I think that given the past year that the entire world has had and its toll on us, there has never been a better time to read about mental illness and loneliness, and more importantly, the value of social connections in the world we live in.

"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"

Eleanor is the definition of "socially awkward" and "blunt", and frankly as I started reading the book, the first person I thought of was Temperance Brennan from the T.V. show, Bones. Granted, Brennan or Bones, as the eponymous protagonist of the show was often called, was not as much of a misfit. Still, as with Bones, you are bound to have very strong reactions towards Eleanor: you either hate her or you love her. I loved Eleanor or at the very least, I loved the way Gail Honeyman told Eleanor's story.  Is Eleanor being facetious or serious or even obnoxious when she proffers unsolicited advice to strangers and acquaintances alike? Who can tell? Haha. I hope you will love Eleanor or at least find her [totally] unintentional humor hilarious. From the beginning, we can tell something is not quite right with Eleanor; you see it in how she interacts with others;  her mommy issues; how her coworkers mock her; how she has no friends; those scars of hers that cause people to stare; and her attachment to vodka quickly becomes worrisome. You immediately want to know and understand this enigma and that's what the book does: takes us on a journey. 

This book will make you feel empathy and compassion and stir you to think deeply. It's a story of kindness, joy, and in many ways, of agency. It is also a story of, no, not that clich├ęd, hackneyed nonsense you see in romcoms and are so used to. This book is creative, it is brilliant, and it is a great story. It will make you laugh (OUT LOUD), it will make you sad, it will tug at your heart strings, and it will make you wonder a lot about the human mind, and cruelty, and loneliness. My favorite part of the book is how much is revealed at the appropriate time. Nothing is dumped at our feet; each staggering, if crazy fact is slowly revealed as the pages turn. It is a book you will call deeply moving. Not everyone agrees with my assessment and I think it's because we are not used to Eleanors even though they exist, maybe not as complex, but they do. Other than that, I can't think of a huge critique to lay at the feet of this book. 

When you read a lot of writing books, they tell you about so and so rules; about staying away from adverbs; how the dialogue should be; the beat and pace. In reality, I have realized that when you tell a good story, and when you tell it well, who cares about stupid, fussy rules. 

The genius of this book is writing about heavy, tragic, and traumatic issues in a matter-of-fact, perhaps plain way as to almost make you gloss over. It's effortless in that way so much that it doesn't take a heavy toll on you. Often when, I read books with interesting themes, it can often feel like the author was given or had a list of interesting themes to explore and would not stop until he/she touched each one.  That was not the case here. I think these were themes that were all beautifully explored. For this and so many other reasons, this is book of the month.

Happy reading, people!



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