Final Book Club of the Year! This month, Stephanie picked Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
By: Gail Honeyman
Published Year: 2017
Publisher: Viking- Pamela Dorman Books
Summary (Provided by Goodreads): Meet Eleanor Oliphant. She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully time-tabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.
Then 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.
What I thought
Honestly, I had heard about this book throughout the year and it never caught my eye. The name and the cover just didn’t do it for me. I don’t think I ever even read the summary, so when Steph picked it for book club, I was curious.
The tone of this book reminded me of Frederick Backman’s books, specifically A Man Called Ove. Considering how much I’ve loved his books, I was immediately drawn into this one.
Eleanor isn’t initially a likable character. She’s odd, a bit of a recluse, and a bit of an alcoholic. She is grumpy and judgmental of everyone around her and has no friends. I’ve learned over time though, that a lot of the time with characters such as these, they typically have a reason as to why they are acting they way they do.
Eleanor’s life is slowly changed when she’s leaving work with her coworker Raymond. Now, I’ll clarify that she was not leaving with him as a choice. They left at the same time and he happened to be going the same direction and started talking with her. While they were leaving, an older man fainted across the street. While Eleanor assumed he was a drunkard and was going to leave him, Raymond ran to help him and brought Eleanor along with him. After this interaction, Eleanor finds herself with two friends and isn’t quite sure what to do with herself.
There were a few moments in this book that I wanted to hit Eleanor upside the head because I would think to myself “there’s no way someone could be this stupid,” but the best part was, she often realized that herself after a short amount of time! I really appreciated that, as a lot of the times characters don’t realize when they’re being stupid and need another character to point it out to them.
Raymond is a nice balance to Eleanor. While a bit awkward (at least according to Eleanor), he is just a truly good and kind person. It was so refreshing to read a story with a character like Raymond. He was never cruel to Eleanor and never had any ulterior motives. He was just nice.
This book also tackles some mental health issues and I feel that it does it in a good way. Some of it seems a bit exaggerated or too quick, but for the sake of the story it works. The only issue I had with the book was the ending. It seemed like it ended very quickly. I think I would’ve liked either a few more chapters or an epilogue.
If this book has been on your radar, I'd recommend it. It's a delightful, easy, read that I think a lot of people would enjoy.
What Book Club Thought
General consensus was that this was a good choice! It took a few of us to get into it a little more than others, but in the end we all really enjoyed it. It was also fun to talk about a lot of the funny moments as well as those that bothered us a bit. We didn't get into a hugely deep discussion about this one, but we did throw it back since Reese Witherspoon's production company has purchased the rights for this book. We discussed which actors we could picture as Eleanor and Raymond. We agreed that we would like Eleanor to be played by an unknown (someone mousy and unassuming) but that Raymound would be played by someone better known. Stephanie came up with someone who was similar to Jack Black when he was in The Holiday and we all agreed that would be perfect.