Book review: Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman

After reading Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, this is the next time I’ve felt so much emotion about a book. Afterall, fiction is perhaps an extension of real -life experiences. What hits hard is that this is most likely someone’s truth, somewhere?

Eleanor Oliphant is an endearing, lovable and funny character. The book begins by pointing out her oddities : her habits, her perception of things solely from her point of view, and her almost asocial life. You are taken on a tour of what the mind of a lonely woman is like, set in the backdrop of Scotland. A woman who has had a seemingly troubled past, and has suffered abuse. The reader instantly empathizes with her current state, as her past unfolds with the turn of chapters. A difficult relationship with her abusive mother, an absent father, an upbringing in several foster homes, compensated for by being extremely diligent at studies in school and university, winning affections from her teachers.
Eleanor balances her life with alarming repetition : weekdays at her day job as an accountant at a creative design firm. Weekends with her vodka and loneliness.
An unlikely friendship at work, a secret crush, and a sequence of events, social encounters and failed plans take us through a hilarious few pages, empathizing once again with our heroine Eleanor. She often observes the absurdities of what is considered ‘normal’ : women wearing make up and walking on impossibly high heels, people pleasing people, people not having nice manners: how were all these accepted by society; while she was considered weird because of her data-based perceptions, her simplicity and her social awkwardness?
The reader is then taken through the mind of what a lonely person feels like when trying to do such ‘normal things’, feeling accepted, validated, or even liked. Tiny acts of kindness that can completely change the world view of a lonely person. Afterall, everyone in the world is looking for love and validation, aren’t they?
Eleanor then slips into a bad patch, and completely loses her will to continue with life. Her struggles with her past keep catching up, impacting her present. But kindness and the right interventions, followed by actions taken by Eleanor herself, finally set her back on the right path, and eventually set her free.
A happy ending for Eleanor makes the reader happy as well. Not a predictable, fairy tale one, but one of resilience and hope: one that shows that a human being is capable of overcoming a lot, with the right spirit and attitude.
Full marks to Gail for unraveling the mind of people afflicted with loneliness, and the circumstances that lead to such a situation. A friendly reminder to be kind , if there was only one thing you could do in life!
I loved the book and give my whole-hearted two thumbs up for it!