By Ekta R. Garg
August 22, 2018
Genre: Women’s fiction
Release date: May 9, 2017
Rated: Binge it! / 5 stars
A single woman discovers her own loneliness after meeting a rising rock star, losing access to her computer, and accidentally helping an elderly person…all within a week. As these life events begin to converge, the woman will realize that not only is she lonely but she also has the means to cure that loneliness. Debut novelist Gail Honeyman delivers a powerful story with both humor and tears guaranteed in the soulful novel Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.
Eleanor Oliphant doesn’t stand on ceremony when it comes to how the world views her. She knows people think she’s stand-offish; strange even. The feeling is mutual. If others don’t have the forethought to look past the burn scars on her face, the dowdy way she dresses, and the fact that she doesn’t engage in idle social interactions, she won’t waste her time with them either.
She lives alone and spends her weekends without speaking to another soul. An employee in the accounts receivable department of a graphic design company, Eleanor works hard at her job and rewards herself every Friday with a pizza, a Chianti, and two large bottles of vodka. She prefers to drink alone, but she never loses control. She’s not an alcoholic, after all, just someone who prefers to use strong libations to drown out the thoughts that trouble her.
Until, that is, she meets him: Johnnie Lomond, lead singer for the Pilgrim Pioneers. Eleanor attends a concert with a colleague and her utmost reluctance as her companions. There she sees Johnnie and his band, and she discovers the meaning of “love at first sight”. She begins putting all her energy toward updating and improving herself to prepare for their first encounter, which she knows Fate will organize in good time.
Her preparation includes researching Johnnie online, which she can’t do at the office because her computer has frozen. Eleanor enlists the help of the IT guy, Raymond, who seems friendly enough, even if he is a sloppy dresser and an effusive talker. He gets Eleanor’s computer working again, and that’s all that matters.
After work one day the two happen to see an old man stagger and fall. They get him to the hospital and as Eleanor goes back to visit him, she finds herself in Raymond’s company several times. Bit by bit her routine of her singular livelihood changes, both by Raymond’s increasing presence and her quest to make herself ready for a life of love with Johnnie. In the end nothing—not the horrific events of her childhood, nor her disturbing relationship with her mother—will prevent Eleanor from the lifetime of happiness that even she didn’t know she was missing before.
Debut author Gail Honeyman gives readers a story with heart and teeth. In the tradition of Fredrik Backman’s books, Honeyman’s prose turns on a dime to both entertain readers and make them sympathize with Eleanor. Early in the book, when Raymond and Eleanor see the old man fall and Eleanor initially thinks the man is a drunkard, she says:
“Even alcoholics deserve help, I suppose, although they should get drunk at home, like I do, so that they don’t cause anyone else any trouble. But then, not everyone is as sensible and considerate as me.”
The fact that Eleanor and company live in Glasgow only adds to the charm of the story. Her biting wit and frank observations will keep readers entertained, which offers the perfect setup to the tender, emotional parts of the novel. No doubt, as the story progresses, readers will find themselves more and more involved with Eleanor’s life. She’s managed to keep the entire world at arm’s length all her life, but her life is about to change. Anyone who encounters this novel will get a front-row seat to that change and will be glad they did.
The book hits all the right notes and will delight readers from start to finish. I recommend readers Binge Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.