By Gail Honeyman
“But I don’t have any emotional needs,” I said. Neither of us spoke for a while. Eventually, she cleared her throat. “Everyone does, Eleanor. All of us—and especially young children—need to know that we’re loved, valued, accepted and understood . . .” I said nothing. This was news to me. I let it settle. It sounded plausible, but it was a concept I’d need to consider at more length in the privacy of my own home.
There really is no need to add to the excellent reviews that already exist for Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. The plot has been outlined and sketches of the unusual personality of the eponymous heroine have been many. She is funny, her voice is funny and her relationship with the social situations she gets herself in are downright hilarious at times. Eleanor is invited to a birthday party by her new friends, and remembers that she must bring a gift.
I noticed that I had failed to consume all of my vodka allocation; the best part of a half bottle of Smirnoff was extant. Mindful of my gauche faux pas at Laura’s party, I put it in a Tesco carrier bag to present to Keith tonight. I pondered what else I should take for him. Flowers seemed wrong; they’re a love token, after all. I looked in the fridge, and popped a packet of cheese slices into the bag. All men like cheese….Keith came up to the table and thanked me for coming. I gave him his birthday present, which he seemed to find genuinely surprising. He looked at each item in turn with an expression that I found hard to read, but I quickly eliminated “boredom” and “indifference.”
But the humor comes from a very dark place. You laugh, but you are uneasy doing so. She is not quirky in the same ways Don, the Asperger sufferer in The Rosie Project is quirky. She was a bright and normal child damaged by tragedy and abuse. The thread of a mystery that is slowly revealed throughout the novel of the exact nature and source of Eleanor’s social awkwardness is cleverly done. Clues to the truth are placed by the author for the reader to puzzle out . The author plays fair, and the so-called twist at the end should not come as a major shock. I’ve read that Reese Witherspoon who has proven very perspicacious at spotting and acquiring the film rights to great novels has acquired this one as well. That alone is an encomium enough for this book, for me. The book ends hopefully and positively, and most readers will love her even more by the end of the book than they surely do in the middle. As a side note, Eleanor is brilliant and I learned many many cool words reading this book!**5 out of 5 stars**
June 28, 2017
P.S. It’s been almost 4 years now. Gail Honeyman has still to publish another book. I hope she is completely fine and not a one hit wonder.