Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman


It was Tony’s A+ that took me to this book and I’m happy that I followed his advice.

Eleanor is, of course, not completely fine when we meet her. As the narrator, she tells us about  her work in the accounts department for a graphics company. She routinely displays an impressive lack of social skills there. She disdains all those around her as unworthy. When she’s not at work, she speaks to no one and spends her weekends drinking vodka. On Wednesday nights she has a conversation with her mother who appears to be speaking from prison and who belittles and berates her.

One day at work she requires tech support and we meet Raymond, an easy-going, good-hearted oafish guy. Later they happened to be on the street at the same time when an older man collapses and helping this man throws them together. Thus Eleanor begins to operate in a social world.

Slowly we learn the extent of Eleanor’s delusions and the cause for them, and for a time I feared this would overwhelm the book for me. Raymond’s goodness and the frank but not unkind assessment of others offset the awfulness. While waiting in line for the bathroom at a club, a drunk woman not unreasonably summed up Eleanor with, “You’re a bit mental, aren’t you?” One of the pleasures of this audiobook was that it is set in Glasgow and the accents are fun to hear.

Eleanor has a crisis which forces her to confront her delusions and remember the facts of the traumas of her childhood. While the trajectory is largely predictable but satisfying, there was a surprise or two which made it even better.

Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Viking Press, 2017, 327 pages (I listened to the audiobook). Available at the UVa and public libraries and from Amazon.

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