This book has a lot to unpack. While reading, I noted several quotes that I thought might be useful for writing the review. Looking at them now, I made note of them because each was an amazing little bundle of sentences. Some of the bundles were laugh out loud funny. Some of the bundles were eviscerating. Some were just things most of us think, don’t say out loud, but wish some one would. Eleanor Oliphant is all of these things. She is amusing without trying to be. She is refreshingly honest but painfully awkward. She is aware of her surroundings and the people in it in a way that is sometimes staggeringly insightful and often hopelessly out of touch. She is all of these things but she is definitely NOT completely fine.
Eleanor works at an office job, lives alone and spends her weekends doling out and drinking measured quantities of alcohol to get her through the weekend. Lather, rinse, repeat. When she wins tickets to see a band, she invites a co-worker to see the show with her and this tiny deviation from her routine sends her on a path of self discovery, friendship and possibly love. That is such an over simplification of the story here, but to delve any deeper gives away too much. This is a book whose layers need to be discovered.
Told in the first person, the novel connects you with Eleanor in a way that is often uncomfortable. She observes the world around her in a detached and scientific way. Eleanor reminded me of a Diane Fosse or Jane Goodall, furiously taking notes but to understand her OWN species. Studying humanness and yearning to connect with it.
“But no one has ever shown me the right way to live a life, and although I tried my best over the years, I simply didn’t know how to make things better. I could not solve the puzzle of me.”
It’s a tough little book that somehow manages to be heart wrenching in an honest and pragmatic way. It’s hopeful without being cloying. Definitely something that I will be thinking about for a while.