Author: Gail Honeyman
Star Rating: 5/5
Genre: Literary Fiction
Eleanor Oliphant is exceptionally detail-oriented, unsocialized, and blunt. Her awkwardness knows no bounds, in only the best ways (for a reader's entertainment) possible. Her rigid life is shaken up one day as the unhygienic IT guy from her office latches on to her, and begins to walk with her towards their respective homes. They stumble across Sammy, an elderly man who takes a tumble and lands on the pavement unconscious. This chance meeting brings the three unlikely people together in an intense and unique triangle of friendships. It's with Raymond and Sammy's love and support that Eleanor comes to confront her own demons and societal struggles after a lifetime of running from them.
"My phone doesn't ring often-it makes me jump when it does-and it's usually people asking if I've been miss-sold Payment Protection Insurance. I whisper I know where you live to them, and hang up the phone very, very gently. No one's been in my flat this year apart from service professionals; I've not voluntarily invited another human being across the threshold, except to read the meter."
Please excuse the vague synopsis. This is the kind of book where anything can be kind of a spoiler. This isn't the type of book you reach for because of the plot, you pick this one up because of the wonderful characters. I can't tell you a whole lot to sell this book beyond that, but I can tell you that this has become the book I recommend to everyone. I've been thinking about it constantly since I finished it. I already want to reread it for the second time. This book means the world to me. Eleanor means the world to me. I don't know that any other book has made me feel nearly as many emotions in so many pages. This book is perfection.
Oh I could go on about Eleanor for days on end. (I have... my poor coworkers...) Eleanor has come from a confusing and traumatic web of a childhood. She'd been tossed around from foster home to foster home until she reached adulthood. She speaks to her mother every Wednesday, which is often too frequent for Eleanor's taste. Her difficult childhood has created an extremely well-read and brilliant woman, who struggles immensely with any social situations. These aspects of Eleanor's personality result in extremely unique interactions filled to the brim with hilarity and wit, though humor is almost never Eleanor's intention.
Though her general awkwardness and quirks make up a lot of this book's charm, there is far more to this story than the humor. This book WILL BREAK YOUR HEART. Every time you think you know what is going on, or think you have a full understanding of Eleanor, you get emotionally blindsided. The tremendous character growth and revelations within this novel has left my mind reeling for days on end. I hardly cry during books. I have not only teared up, but SOBBED, several times while reading this. I don't care who you are, this book will get you. Eleanor will have your heart.
Eleanor explores a concept I don't think I've ever experienced in fiction so purely: loneliness. No, not being apart from your loved ones for a stretch of time. Not even the illusion of loneliness that depression can force into one's mind. Not even short-term isolation. This book deals with real loneliness. We meet a character who's gone most of her life entirely and truly alone. Eleanor has no memory of close childhood friends or siblings. Her mother is far away and out of reach to her, besides their short weekly phone call. Eleanor has no visitors to her home, other than the ones she absolutely must have as per civic duty. She has no acquaintances amongst her colleagues. The exploration of Eleanor's lifelong loneliness, and the abrupt end of said loneliness is not only fascinating, but utterly heart-wrenching. I've hardly rooted for a protagonist more.
I promised I wouldn't spoil anything, and I simply cannot talk about this book any longer without excitedly blurting out every favorite scene and quote. Therefore: I will leave you with these parting statements to help sell this book.
1. We are all tired of romance-heavy books. This book has innocent lust within its pages, but friendship is first and foremost. We love a good literary friendship here on Food For Thought.
2. This book is hilarious as much as it is hard-hitting, but it is a page turner. The quickness of the read is guaranteed to get you out of a reading slump.
3. PLEASE READ IT, OR I WILL PERSONALLY SHOW UP TO YOUR HOME AND SLEEP IN YOUR KITCHEN SINK UNTIL YOU CAVE!!!!
That is all.