I needed a feel good, uplifting, “everything will turn out fine” kind of book recently. Not surprising, given the events of the last few weeks. I was looking through my “To Read” list and this book with its quirky title caught my attention and it turned out to be a serendipitous and life affirming choice! Funny, quirky, with a heroine who is brave beyond words, this book with a supporting cast of characters who make you laugh, cry makes you believe in the essential goodness and kindness of humanity.
Contrary to the title Eleanor Oliphant is not completely fine. Living on her own, now, after being either in foster care or state institutions for most of her life, she has a decent job and a plant and that is about it. She has achieved these things with strict timetables and rigid control, but with her limited social skills and supercilious demeanor she is the object of much eye rolling and ridicule from her fellow employees. On weekends, however, the control slips and she spends much of her time in a drunken stupor trying to block out some terror from her past.
Eleanor might have maintained this life for quite sometime if it wasn’t for the the old man who fell right in front of her and a co-worker named Raymond. Galvanized by this incident Raymond and Eleanor are able to help the elderly man get to the hospital and stay with him until his family arrives. In some strange way, this incident pulls Eleanor out of the cocoon of her existence, forcing her to interact with and engage the world in ways that she had not done before. Raymond, bumbling and unhygienic, is hardly the kind of person that Eleanor ever thought she would have anything to do with, but she is suddenly pulled into his orbit, meeting his mother, and going with him to visit Sammy, the elderly man they rescued.
But these new experiences threaten to open the doors to a past that she has long held in abeyance with carefully constructed barriers. Now Eleanor must choose to either engage the past, or to shut the door on her newly found entrance into a new and different life.
Honeyman has created the most engaging and off putting character that I have encountered in quite sometime. Eleanor is someone you would love to hate if you met her in real life, but as you encounter her in the book you see things from her perspective and that allows you to see her more empathetically. Bumbling Raymond is the perfect foil for uptight Eleanor. Eleanor silently nit picks and judges Raymond for all his perceived faults and yet at the same time begins to realize the many ways he is bringing new life to her otherwise limited and narrow existence. Like the characters in A Man Called Ove or The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, Eleanor Oliphant completely wins you over, restores your faith in humanity, affirms the innate resilience of individuals and helps us see the power in kindness and love.
Brenda’s Rating: *****(5 Out of 5 Stars)
Recommend this book to? Marian, Lauren, Sharon and Keith
Book Study Worthy? Yes (There is a book study guide on Amazon!)
Read in ebook format.