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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a poignant story of a thirty-year old woman. Eleanor lives a lonely life, works in a small office, and is friendless.
The first thing people might recognize about Eleanor is one side of her face is badly scarred. As far was her early childhood years, Eleanor says, “It was just mommy and me.” And for reasons yet unknown to the reader, Eleanor spent years living under care provided by social services. And if someone asks how it was growing up that way—Eleanor will respond, “It was fine…it was fine.”
Now grownup, Eleanor speaks to her mother every Wednesday and suffers through “mommy’s” hateful barbs and callous insults. We are not quite sure where Eleanor’s mother actually resides, but we get the feeling it might be a senior home. However, it becomes more and more clear that “mommy” is a completely bizarre character with a diabolically cruel, mean streak when it comes to Eleanor. But no matter, Eleanor still faithfully speaks to her mother every Wednesday, thereby subjecting herself to the most demeaning and damaging maternal remarks.
Although it remains unclear why Eleanor’s mother seems unhinged, and why Eleanor continues to subject herself to the weekly emotional trouncing sessions, we can at least begin to ascertain why Eleanor lives as she does. We may wonder how Eleanor can ever make friends. We worry that she may never find love and companionship. It is sadly apparently that Eleanor is emotionally stunted. We hope for her to begin the healing from whatever it is that caused her emotional pain. But as Eleanor continues to rely on vodka to get her through her lonely weekends, we begin to fear she may never become whole.
But the thing is…Eleanor is intelligent. Apparently, her mother had insisted on proper behavior and Eleanor seems to have come away with strict expectations of how others comport themselves as far as habits, cleanliness and manners to name a few. In fact, I found Eleanor to have a rapid wit, which I found hilariously funny. I was actually listening to an audio version of the book as I drove back and forth to work every day. And I found myself driving down the road, literally laughing out loud and some of Eleanor’s thoughts or remarks. The worst part might be that most times I found myself agreeing with her sentiments. But, it was just that sort of thing that gave me hope for Eleanor. Yes, she is way too blunt. But so are a lot of folks—and they have families and plenty of friends. So here and there, as the story of Eleanor proceeded, I would begin to think I saw a light at the end of Eleanor’s emotional tunnel, but as it is sometimes in real life, I felt almost every step forward for Eleanor ended in two steps back. And at that, I felt so sad.
As I further delved into Eleanor’s story, I came to a tentative conclusion that Eleanor’s one-sided facial scar might be an allegorical representation of the possibility, and the hope, not all of Eleanor was completely damaged forever. And that maybe only one side of Eleanor was damaged—her emotional side.
There is so much more to this story than I will write about here. I just would like my readers to know, in Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman has written an insightful and touching story. I find myself at a loss for words, to express how much I have fallen in love with Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. And as a shout-out to a co-worker (you know who you, R.), I thank you so much for telling me how much you loved this book. Otherwise, I might never have discovered a book with a story so moving and so heartrending. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine brought back the memory of how, and why, I fell in love with reading as a young girl. And that is a great gift indeed.
Notes for Readers:
I listened to the audio version of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I read hardcover books, paperbacks, Kindle books, and I often listen to books on Audible. My Book Club Reporter book review of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is based on the Audible version which is so wonderfully narrated by Cathleen McCarron. In my own personal opinion, Ms. McCarron's narration really brought Eleanor and all the characters to life for me.
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