I desperately needed a book at the airport. We were flying to New Orleans and I had left my Kindle at home accidentally. There was no way I was going to make it that long without a book. Off to the airport bookstore I went. I picked up this book because I had heard The Modern Mrs. Darcy talk about it. I needed to pick something I wouldn’t be disappointed in since it was all I would have for a few hours. Luckily, I made a good choice.
Length: 390 pages
Setting: Glasgow, Scotland, in the last decade
Font: Sabon LT Std and Bulmer
Summary: Short version: Eleanor’s life improves when she becomes friends with Raymond
Long version: Eleanor is self-sufficient to the extreme. She has an office job, but almost never talks to anyone outside of work. That’s about to change, though, because she’s seen her soulmate. He’s a singer in a local band, and she learns all she can about him on social media. At work, she meets Raymond, the new IT tech. He makes an effort to engage with Eleanor. They are out walking when an elderly gentleman passes out in front of them. That’s the first string in a web that brings Eleanor out of her loneliness and enforced self-sufficiency. We slowly learn about Eleanor’s past with an emotionally abusive mother. That explains some of the social awkwardness and distaste of social niceties. Eleanor’s attempt to meet her soulmate fails terribly, but results in a stronger friendship with Raymond and opening up to a counselor.
Final thoughts: I was very pleased that I had made a good choice with this book. Eleanor’s way of looking at the world was so amusing to read about. I’m sure actually interacting with her would be annoying. She reminded me how many of our social interactions are polite lies and conversations we don’t really care about. If Eleanor didn’t care about something, she wasn’t going to bother doing it, regardless of if it was the polite thing to do or not. That made her pretty unpopular around the office and led to a complete lack of friends. The underlying theme of the book was loneliness. Eleanor would get through her quiet weekends with a bottle of vodka and a series of TV or radio shows.
That all changed with Raymond. He was willing to put up with Eleanor’s oddities and perhaps even enjoyed them. He opened her eyes to the fact that there is more to life than just getting by. You can actually enjoy yourself in the presence of someone else. Eleanor opened up enough to get a cat, which was the perfect pet for her. A dog loves too indiscriminately. A cat, on the other hand, was the embodiment of Eleanor. If a cat doesn’t like you, it will either bit you or leave. You have to demonstrate you are worthy of attention, because a cat can be perfectly fine on its own. Eleanor gradually learned that while she is fine on her own, she could be good with the help of friends.
We slowly learn there is a reason Eleanor is so self-sufficient. The little bits of her childhood she lets slip to Raymond and in her thoughts paint a terrible picture of her childhood. There are several big reveals at the end that made me reevaluate several parts throughout the story.
Title comes from: Eleanor Oliphant is the main character and she often told herself and her mother that she was completely fine
Reading challenges fulfilled: book #8 for 2020 and an E in my Title Reading the Alphabet Challenge (I’m doing well with my vowels this year)
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