Eleanor Oliphant lives alone, and she is completely fine thank you very much. She works during the week, but Friday she buys two bottles of vodka and spends her entire weekend drunk. This all changes when the new IT-guy Raymond walks her home one day and an old man collapses on the ground. Eleanor is forced out of her shell and thrust into a new family, but there are shadows from the past lurking and Mummy still calls every Wednesday…
“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”
The beginning of the book was a bit slow, and for a while I felt unsure of what type of book it was. Most of the book follows Eleanor’s strategies for being “completely fine,”, the rules she has taught herself to appear normal. Except she doesn’t appear normal. This aspect was done so much better in Miranda July’s the first bad man and I spent a good chunk of the book being frustrated that this book did the same, but worse.
“There are days when I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar. A strong gust of wind could dislodge me completely, and I’d lift off and blow away, like one of those seeds in a dandelion clock. The threads tighten slightly from Monday to Friday.”
It really steps into its own when it abandons Eleanor’s loneliness and thrusts her into the world. Here she becomes less odd and more relatable. She reads up on how to interact in social situations and while some of it may seem absurd (she brings half a bottle of vodka and an open packet of cheese as a hostess gift) it does a good job of bringing the reader into a sense of feeling out of place and looking to your surroundings for guidance, like Eleanor does with not-so-socially-adept-but-still-loads-better-than-Eleanor Raymond.
“Sometimes you simply needed someone kind to sit with you while you dealt with things.”
When Eleanor faces the world is also when she is forced to face her past. There are some twists in this book, but they are not major. It is not so much about what happened in the past as it is how Eleanor reacts to them in the present when she finally faces them.
All in all it is a pleasant little book with some very real, very lonely characters getting along and helping each other, like humans do.
“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.”