Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

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Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending an advanced reading copy of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I have one serious book/character hangover now thanks to Eleanor. A serious hangover.

I did, for just a brief moment, start listening to this one in audio, but after just a few minutes in, I decided to pick up the paperback ARC to read. There was just “something” about it that made me want to read it in book format, and now, after closing the pages on Eleanor’s story, I am completely happy with that decision. I’ve seen the comments about the wonderful Scottish brogue used in the audio, but still, this story was one I could not put down once I started reading and I think I enjoyed it far more than I might have had I listened to it, accent or no charming accent.

When I started reading, Eleanor came across like a cross/mix between Amy Farrah Fowler and Sheldon Cooper, minus the science, from The Big Bang Theory. Two socially awkward misfits like Amy and Sheldon – Eleanor was very much a social misfit herself. She was also one of the most tragic and saddest characters I’ve read about too. She completely stole my heart so many times when reading. Here are some of her musings about herself, which made my heart ache:

“What, I wondered was the point of me? I contributed nothing to the world, absolutely nothing, and I took nothing from it either. When I ceased to exist, it would make no material difference to anyone.

Most people’s absences from the world would be felt on a personal level by at least a handful of people. I, however, had no one.

I do not light up a room when I walk into it. No one longs to see me or hear my voice. I do not feel sorry for myself, not in the least. These are simply statements of fact.”

Eleanor is not just socially inept, she has exterior characteristics that also cause her to hide herself away, try to blend in and become as invisible as possible. Her face is scarred, and this is where a bit of a mystery unfolds as the story moves along. Something horrific happened to Eleanor at a very young age, it was caused by her mother, but to what extent we do not know, only that Eleanor spent most of her childhood in foster care families and homes. She is quick to say she received the necessary physical comforts in life – she had houses to live in, shoes to wear, food to eat. However, it becomes a raw and apparent fact that Eleanor has never had the emotional comforts in her life. She is a desperately lonely and tragic person.

“I ran my fingers over the scar tissue, caressing the contours…. There are scars on my heart, just as thick, as disfiguring as those on my face. I know they’re there. I hope some undamaged tissue remains, a patch through which love can come in and flow out. I hope.”

When Eleanor is outside of work with a deeply unhygienic (Eleanor’s opinion) co-worker from IT, Raymond, they find themselves helping an elderly man named Sammy, after he collapses on the sidewalk. After spending more time with Raymond and Sammy and opening herself to their company, Eleanor slowly realizes what friendship feels like.

I would say only one wee wobble took away complete and absolute love and it was perhaps that ending about her mother. I don’t know, something about it just didn’t really do it for me. :-) But in the grand scheme of things it’s a teeny tiny wobble! Eleanor Oliphant really is now completely fine! She’s one of the best characters I’ve read in a very long time. My heart squeezed tight because of Eleanor and this definitely is one of the best books I’ve read this year.  (I would also love to see this become a movie!)