Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. Just ask her. She has a run-of-the-mill office job. She has weekly calls with her mummy. She has a potential love interest. What else does she need?
Frankly, she needs a lot. And, not surprisingly, she learns this throughout the novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, which was Mama’s September Reading Challenge pick recommended by a librarian.
Actress Reese Witherspoon claimed this highly rated, debut novel for her book club. (Who knew she had a book club? Who is she…Oprah?) Therefore, the cover quote from Ms. Witherspoon reads, “Beautifully written and incredibly funny.”
Whelp. I tried to take her for her word, but I didn’t find it “incredibly funny.” It induced a few breathed-out “ha-has,” but I think dubbing it “incredibly funny” is a bit strong.
Have I bragged enough about Fredrik Backman (of A Man Called Ove fame) to make you pick up Britt-Marie Was Here? Eleanor Oliphant reminds me strongly of Britt-Marie, with her very controlled, friendless present and her incredibly tragic past, but with less loveability. By the end, I thoroughly enjoyed Britt-Marie. She grew into a character who could stand on her own. Eleanor Oliphant, however, never seeemed to get her feet under her.
Eleanor and a scruffy, unkempt IT guy, Raymond, inadvertently help an older gentleman when he collapses in the street near them. This act of kindness gives Eleanor a new purpose, as well as a broadened social circle. She also has her eye on an attractive musician as her pending soulmate. This connection (of which he is unaware) pushes Eleanor to update her wardrobe and appearance, which helps her all-around view of herself.
Eleanor’s tragic past and (literally) evil mother keep haunting and dogging her every step. Her mother is a horrific human being, and this has great impact on Eleanor’s view of herself and her reactions to others. She must learn to use her own mind and compassion to face her surroundings. Thankfully, her friendship with Raymond the IT guy and therapy help her work through her past.
And so, if I were to recommend a novel featuring a woman who struggles fitting into typical society and comes from unbelievable sadness, I’d send you down Britt-Marie’s path instead of Eleanor Oliphant’s.