Friday, October 05, 2018

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No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

“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.”

The moment I read the synopsis, I knew that I had to read this book. Eleanor Oliphant is a lot like me - a forever single, socially awkward, office-working adult who is living with depression. While some may not see why I'd enjoy reading about a sad dork like myself, I honestly thought it was rather quite nice not to feel so alone. Representation matters!

I did see some reviews on Goodreads that talked about how mean Eleanor was, but I honestly didn't feel that way about her. True, she was blunt and honest, but I don't feel she ever really meant any harm by how she felt about others. She didn't have much experience with social interaction, and she was raised to think ill of people who didn't meet certain "standards," so I feel that her "meanness" stems more from her naive personality than anything.

It was fun (and often funny!) to see Eleanor transform herself throughout the novel - not just internally, but reading about her purchasing her first computer, or getting her first wax job, or getting her hair cut & styled for the first time and becoming "shiny." Her slowly improving perceptions of Raymond, the "bumbling" IT guy, really made me think about how initial judgments can really keep us from getting to know some great people. I was glad to see her overcome them in the way that she did - over time, rather than all at once.

There were a few turns that this novel took that I was not expecting, and a few that I did, but I won't get into them here. I will say that this was a great depiction of an aspect of depression (everyone's experience is completely different), and I applaud Ms. Honeyman for writing it the way she did. I also appreciate that she had Eleanor realize that there was nothing wrong with going to therapy, and find that it could actually be beneficial to improving your life, rather than something to be ashamed of.

I would honestly give this book 4.5 stars.