Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
What goes through the mind of a truly lonely person? What does it feel like to have to live, when you really would rather not? In a world where social connections and physical appearance can make or break you, how do you cope with people’s stares and a total lack of friendships?
Every once in a while, a news report will reveal the true number of people who live lonely lives and most of us know people who at one point or another have experienced loneliness, but much like depression used to be, loneliness is today very much a taboo subject - often seen as a sign of weakness and therefore rarely a topic of conversation except in the abstract.
Enter: Eleanor Oliphant.
A young woman with a dark past and a very predictable present. A life that follows the exact same schedule every single day, the same job, the same clothes and the same two bottles of vodka.
“….usually, I don’t speak from the point at which I state my destination to the bus driver on Friday night, right through until I greet his colleague on Monday morning.”
Gail Honeyman’s debut novel “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” is a wonderful introduction not only to a lovable character but also to her world - a world where everything must stay very simple, very practical and very much the same. Any unexpected movements and she risks facing demons better contained safely within the confines of a regularly scheduled Wednesday afternoon telephone conversation. She has to stay strong, in control. Her password of choice....Seneca’s words: “Fire tests gold and adversity tests the brave”.
But Eleanor knows something is wrong - she knows she is lonely and the struggle between the safety of the known and the promise of unknown land her in a tug of war.
“I took one of my hands in the other, tried to imagine what it would feel like it was another person’s hand holding mine. There have been times where I felt that I might die of loneliness. People sometimes say that they might die of boredom, that they’re dying for a cup of tea, but for me dying of loneliness is not hyperbole. When I feel like that, my head drops, and my shoulders slump and I ache, I physically ache, for human contact - I truly feel that I might tumble to the ground and pass away if someone doesn’t hold me, touch me.”
”People don’t like these facts, but I can’t help that”.
Fortunately for Eleanor, however, life refuses to be controlled and random acts of kindness force her to embark on a roller coast ride of chance encounters and risk taking her outside of the carefully set boundaries of her meticulously planned life - while stockpiling pills for a quick exit.
“Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” may not seem like the perfect summer read, but believe me…it is! It is a heartwarming, funny and illuminating novel about the plight of so many people who live quietly among us, whose lives we don’t understand or appreciate. It is also the story of the power of parents over their children - for good and for (very) bad - and the responsibility of society to the children who need us the most. Finally, it is a novel about the wonderful unpredictability of life and how just one person can mean the difference between light and utter darkness.