By Julie Kish

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
By Gail Honeyman
Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, 2017

As the title says, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, or so she says. She definitely has a comfortable routine that keeps her life manageable and under control. Eleanor is 30 years old and has worked at the same accounting job in Glasgow, Scotland, since graduating from university.

She wears the same thing to work every day, eats the same things for dinner, and does the newspaper crossword each day while eating her lunch alone. Every Wednesday evening, she speaks to her mother on the phone and listens obediently while her mother belittles and chastises her. Every weekend she keeps herself comfortably numb by consuming two bottles of vodka.

Eleanor is damaged, quirky and special, and I rooted for her from the beginning. She is extremely socially awkward and tends to blurt out her thoughts, so she avoids engaging in social situations where things could go wrong quickly. She believes it’s best for her to be alone.

Poor Eleanor Oliphant has always been alone in the world. She has been in and out of foster care since she was a little girl and has never felt loved.

“I was thirty years old, I realised, and I had never walked hand in hand with anyone. No one had ever rubbed my tired shoulders, or stroked my face.”

One day, Eleanor and a work colleague, Raymond, assist an elderly man who’d fallen over on the street. The incident ties the three together in a bond of friendship, something Eleanor had never experienced before. Through Eleanor and Raymond’s budding friendship, we realize just how “not fine” Eleanor truly is. In fact, Eleanor is in deep emotional pain.

Ultimately, this story is about loneliness and the importance of friendship and human connection.

“These days, loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted.”

Throughout the book, Eleanor slowly experiences a metamorphosis that makes the reader smile, laugh and, of course, cry. The author balances the heavy – and there’s a lot here, so be prepared – with humour and hope.

Not only does the author create unique and completely unforgettable characters, but she also finds a way to give the reader all kinds of different feelings. The story is funny, heartwarming, heartbreaking, hopeful and inspiring. It’s also brilliant and has an excellent surprise ending. This will undoubtedly be one of my top 10 reads this year.

Gail Honeyman is a Scottish author, and this is her only novel to date. It won the British Book of the Year in 2018 and a slew of other awards. Reese Witherspoon chose it for her book club in 2017, and she also purchased the rights to produce the film through her production company, Hello Sunshine. There’s no word yet on when the film might be made.