Reviewed by Abby
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is Gail Honeyman’s debut novel about a woman who seems to have her life perfectly together, or at least that is what she believes. Eleanor is an office worker who performs a normal, albeit boring, daily routine. She clocks out after work and goes home to lovingly prepared meals of frozen pizza and alcohol; all while reading, scrolling the internet, or awaiting the weekly dreaded phone call from her mother. Eleanor does not have social relationships outside of the handful of conversations she has had with her coworkers. It would seem that Eleanor has issues connecting with other people. This is likely due to her closed-off, meticulous behavior developed by a rather unpleasant childhood. Her coworkers find her odd and often talk about her behind her back. She lives alone and plans to keep it that way until she discovers an attractive local singer that captures her attention a bit too much (e.g. she stalks the man on social media and fantasizes about their future life together before they have even met). Eleanor’s romantic scheming is slowly coming along until one unordinary event and one unlikely coworker both force her to rethink her motives … and her traumatic past that she has pushed deep inside her sub-consciousness.
I found Eleanor’s character development to be relatable. I was the quiet book nerd who had trouble socializing with others. I had to quickly grow up and learn more about myself as an individual; similarly to what Eleanor experiences herself in the book. Eleanor chooses to face, and eventually overcome, her problems for her own self-improvement. She does not do this for the sake of pleasing others. I revere Gail Honeyman for tackling this topic with such ease.
Google categorizes this novel as a romance and psychological fiction. I would call it coming-of-age as well. This is because Eleanor’s traumatic past has manifested into a comfortable lifestyle for herself that is reminiscent of our first covid-19 quarantine period. She does not leave the house other than to go to work and buy groceries. She does not speak with anyone other than her mother and her coworkers. As soon as she meets the I.T. person from her office, Raymond, she begins to realize just how much she is missing out in life by self-isolating. She also establishes how truly toxic her relationship is with her mother after witnessing the loving, caring relationship between Raymond and his own mother.
I honestly had doubts when I first picked up this book. I am unfortunately the kind of person who judges a book by its cover and this is certainly a bland looking book on the outside. I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I expected! (5 stars on Goodreads!) It is a unique, modernized twist on your typical romance novels. Eleanor experiences love for the first time through various means: her growing friendship with Raymond, through Raymond’s mother who behaves as a stand-in for Eleanor’s own mother, and the love that blooms inside as she begins to recognize what has been holding her back all these years from true happiness.