Read Remark Book Review - Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Published May 2017
Viking – Pamela Dorman Books

One-sentence summary:
Abrasive and socially awkward Eleanor Oliphant comes slowly and painfully out of the cocoon she’s built for herself.

Yeah, the thing is, if you have to keep convincing people you’re fine, chances are, you’re not.

Eleanor Oliphant is a strange duck. She spends every weekend drinking herself into a stupor. Interactions are stilted, awkward. Every week, her mother calls from jail with sadistic verbal abuse. For some reason, she always takes the call.

The more we see of her spartan lifestyle, Eleanor seems an amalgam of every off-center, misanthropic, school marmy character we’ve met.

“I find lateness exceptionally rude; it’s so disrespectful, implying unambiguously that you consider yourself and your own time to be so much more valuable than the other person’s.”

OK, she does have a point there.

She looks disapprovingly down her nose at people, takes slang literally, and misunderstands social cues. Her literal take on life offers some humorous moments. Eleanor’s host gift for a party:

“I pondered what else I should take for him. Flowers seemed wrong; they’re a love token, after all. I looked in the fridge, and popped a packet of cheese slices into the bag. All men like cheese.”

Reading through reviews, this can be where the story stops for some readers. It’s hard to see past her aggressive unlikeability.

But I love strange Eleanor Oliphant.

She hides oceans of emotions and a fragile vulnerability beneath her no-nonsense shell. As her story unfolds further, it’s hard not to sympathize.

Set in Scotland, I was struck by the lack of stigma surrounding mental health. She represses a lot and feels shame when it comes to light, but people are accepting of Eleanor’s struggles.

I don’t know that everyone would be as accepting here in America. In theory and law, mental health needs are accepted and accommodated. In practice, it’s not always the case. There’s still somewhat of a stigma, especially in the workplace, which is unfortunate.

Emotional, funny, sweet without being saccharine. This book takes the worst circumstances in life and finds surprising sources of light.