Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Khyati Sharma
Jul 10, 2019 · 3 min read

Disclaimer: I have never reviewed a book before. But have always wanted to.

And so, I started looking for my first book like a wild streak. I am glad I decided to examine Eleanor Oliphant for my debut. This book truly helped me get out of my reading slump, slowly making its way into my heart and not wanting to leave the place ever. I wish I had read it sooner but better late than never! Eleanor Oliphant is heartwarming and heartbreaking both. She is all of us at a certain level.

Loneliness is a new cancer! A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it, says the author Gail Honeyman. And she portraits it right through her protagonist Eleanor, whose tragi-comic life grips you hard in the gut. Twenty-nine-year-old accounting clerk Eleanor opens her vulnerable world with utmost honesty. The more you get to know her, the more you love her and don’t wish to let go of her. Debut author Honeyman touches the sensitive and gray areas such as loneliness, mental illness, trauma and abuse persisting in the society with such finesse, that you would barely notice this is her first attempt in the world of words.

The story revolves around the central character Eleanor, a forever healing mortal being who likes to stick to her routine: work throughout the week, leave for office on time and step out likewise, buy herself a pizza and two bottles of vodka on every Friday, and get drunk in the whirlwind of the weekend until Monday arrives. What may first appear to be a simple, plain tale of an innocuous loner soon carves its way to darker undercurrents, revealing what made Eleanor the way she is. From a terrifying childhood to a punctured womanhood that is trapped with the Wednesday abusive phone calls from her abstracted mother, Eleanor endures it all and finds it impossible to voice or cast any shade of light on her black world.

But just when Eleanor’s globe begins to feel ‘normal’ again and she is fully convinced to have found the love of her life in the form of a local musician, Johnnie (whom she’s never met tbh), she’s brought back to the biting reality that absolutely crushes her broken fantasy and digs her further into a state of depression. Thankfully, her office colleague Raymond’s innocent and real friendship saves her from the circle of self-destruction, and only at his resistance, she agrees to see a counselor. As she begins to heal, her past is identified in wholeness — leading your heart with pain and sorrow, giving away oodles of warm thoughts for the girl who had to go through it all.

Oliphant completely had me when she says, “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.”

My biggest takeaway from Gail’s debut fiction is how NOT to look down upon people you know nothing about. That person may be dealing with a hard life already and I do not wish to make it any harder for him.

Do humanity a favour today. Greet a stranger with open arms! You never know how hard he/she is trying to win the battle of mental illness. And every ounce of kindness can transform people’s lives. Remember, People with mental illnesses are not sudden alien lives because they are sick. When they’re struggling they aren’t monsters, they just need a good dose of love and treatment just like you need for any other illness. How we make them feel, can certainly make a great difference to them.

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