By Lynn Willoughby
Elanor Oliphant is Completely Fine ~ Gail Honeyman
This novel was recommended to me and as I began to read, I wondered why. However, a few short pages later I was passionately involved and could not put the book down.
Eleanor struggles with appropriate social skills, always dresses for work in a white blouse and black pants, says exactly what she is thinking, with no filter, has no friends and spends her weekends alone, drinking vodka. But when her computer at work freezes, she meets Raymond – the unhygienic, smoking, baggy pants wearing, IT guy. He is everything she abhors and can’t be around.
The two of them end up leaving work at the same time and save an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk outside the office. These unlikely three become …”the kind of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living.” In her thirty years, Eleanor has never had a friend. Ultimately, it is Raymond’s big heart who will save Eleanor’s damaged self. It is Raymond who appreciates her off beat wit. He introduces Eleanor to his mom, he accepts that she has been in foster care since she was young and has never been touched or held in a loving way.
Eleanor, for her part, learns to accept that Raymond can buy her a drink, that Raymond is perpetually late, that he always wears trainers, that he is friendly and outgoing and often forgets about her, so she just goes home from the pub. Because he asks so little of her, she accepts him, learns from him, tolerates hugs from his mom.
In her attempts to become “normal”, Eleanor has manicures and waxes, gets her hair cut and coloured, gets a make-over and learns how to put on a “smokey eye.” Often these moments are hilarious, but her scars – both internal and external are woven through this novel with great skill. And I realized how boring the world would be without people who don’t always say the right things, or act the way they are expected to act, who dress differently from the norm, who don’t share our same histories.
This is truly an emotional book, with many sad and painful moments. But it is never sentimental or sappy. The characters are people I would like to meet and who I will remember for a long time. This is truly a special book, especially as a debut novel.
Scaring and wounds from fire are being treated today with Tilapia skins.