Book Club: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

“Looks cute, I’ll buy it.” Snapped one photo for Instagram and then left it to live out its most serene life underneath a stack of books in my closet. Eighteen months later, it changed me.

I don’t want to be melodramatic here. I’m twenty-four, living an adult life, and having many adult expectations put upon me (by no other than myself), so here I am being completely unequivocally realistic with you. This novel, that looks suspiciously like teen fiction, absolutely melted me.

I was dealing with my anxiety when I read this book. It was the tail-end of a harrowing six months. I had started, stopped, changed medications, seen two doctors, had many visits with a psychologist and was newly engaged, and therefore expected to be the most happy and zen version of myself. I was under pressure, but I was improving. And that is when I read this book.

I thought it would be light hearted. An easy read; something bland but humorous to slip me back into the routine of being a happily introverted bookworm. I went into it blind, you could say. Quite truly unaware of what I was reading. And like I said, this book snuffled its way down into the hollow little corners of my soul and proceeded to warm up, gently and cheerfully. It was like a hug, in literal form.

The storyline doesn’t come across as powerfully as the story itself is. It’s about a girl (aren’t they all), with a very sad, and very hurtful past. She’s working through it, but in a very clinical, unemotional fashion. It brings out an empathy you didn’t know you have. This girl goes to work, comes home, and becomes friends with a friendly (but entirely – in her opinion – unkept and strange) man from work. It’s adorable. You can see the love story playing out the entire time, and yet Eleanor’s complete bemusement as to why this man would say, talk while chewing, or wear band t-shirts, is unquestionably endearing.

Gail Honeyman has created a story that covers mental health (without being horribly mainstream, or trivialising it with common conjecture), falling in love (again; realistically), making friends as an adult, and dealing with your past issues. How she has managed to make these themes lock into one storyline, without being embarrassingly textbook or patronising, is beyond me. I’m in my twenties and I loved it. I’m going to recommend it to my mother, and she will love it. If I had a twelve-year-old daughter, she would love it. It’s like the jeans in Sisterhood of Travelling Pants, but in book form. It will fit all of you.
While I am always predisposed to find fault in any literature that doesn’t have me calling up my husband claiming that he ‘needs to hear this’, in this case, I have nothing. It was a warm bath of a story; soothing, cleansing, and somehow very personal.

It’s poignant, the way Gail Honeyman tells the life of Eleanor. In short, she is a story of someone who really does not fit in with society, but is completely comfortable in that fact. Also a story of someone who helps – really helps – without hesitation. I am not a cry-er, or in fact, a laugher when it comes to literature, but this novel made me do both. Go figure.

In short: go buy the book. Get it on audible. Dredge up your kindle and download it. If you want to feel warm and happy, please do yourself the favour.

Sincerely, someone who religiously reads psychological thrillers with scarce emotion, yet still curled up in a happy ball and reread these chapters because they made me so content.

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