“I simply didn't know how to make things better. I could not solve the puzzle of me.”Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of a girl who in living in survival mode. She was so traumatized by events from her childhood and so lonely for human connections that she has no way to judge her actions against societal norms. Coworkers may make fun of her but Eleanor is so busy trying to hold herself together that their comments hardly register. Eleanor's whole life from the surface is all order and routine, but the below the surface, Eleanor has nothing. From Friday after work until Monday morning, Eleanor's only companions are two bottles of vodka. She wonders to herself if she dies, how long it will be before someone from work bothers to follow-up to see if she is alive. Her isolation is almost complete. But as the novel unfolds we discover why and it puts a new spin on rude comments from coworkers. Do we really know what sadness our friends and colleagues have to bear on their own? Then Eleanor meets Raymond, the new guy in the IT department. He is not interested in the workplace gossip and asks Eleanor to join him for lunch. Slowly, tremulously a friendship develops between the two and the closed world that Eleanor has been encased in starts to crack. But can she survive once she confronts the truth?
“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn't spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”Though the topic is a very serious one, I should mention that there are some very funny moments in the book. Most of the funny parts relate to Eleanor's misunderstandings in social settings. At one point, I had a thought run through my head that Eleanor is a bit like Amelia Bedelia. Remember her from your childhood. She is the fictional character who took everything for its literal meaning.
Eleanor Oliphant is an amazing book. Why? Because it should give everyone a moment of pause. We've all known Eleanors. Every workplace has an Eleanor, the oddball coworker who rarely says anything and just doesn't seem to fit in. Possibly a person who is teased without knowing much of anything about the person. We've all known people who were lonely. Maybe we didn't know how lonely, but loneliness is a condition we can do something about. When Raymond befriends Eleanor she starts to see the world through a different set of eyes and she didn't like everything she saw.
I was so touched by the book. Even as I am writing this blog, I feel like crying. It is, in a lot of ways, a book about hope, about platonic love, and about empathy. I want to be the Raymond in someone's life. A person who is willing to hold up a mirror for someone to see themselves more clearly, but also be willing to stick around when things get rough.
“Sometimes you simply needed someone kind to sit with you while you dealt with things.”As a Beatles fan, I kept wondering if Honeyman chose the name, maybe subconsciously, because of the song Eleanor Rigby, who, "died in the church and was buried alone with her name." The song and the book certainly have loneliness in common. Just a thought. I sincerely hope that we choose this book for an upcoming book club. It will give us a lot to talk about and I'll have an excuse to read again soon.
Past Due Book Reviews