Eleanor Oliphant is almost 30 and living alone in Glasgow. She is, for lack of a better term, strange. She follows a rigid routine that includes going to a nine-to-five bookkeeping job she’s had for almost a decade and making contact with as few human beings as possible. When she does have to interact with others, she’s awkward and oblivious to social cues and norms. (Her reaction to seeing people flirt is worth the price of admission alone.)
But why is she like this? Such is the question posed in Gail Honeyman’s simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking debut, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.
Over the course of the book, Honeyman slowly rolls out details of Eleanor’s traumatic past, including stints in multiple foster homes, a substantial scar on her cheek and weekly phone conversations with her “Mummy,” who’s currently incarcerated.
Basically, she’s spent her entire life stuck in a rut, until she meets Raymond, a gentle, easygoing colleague who becomes her first real friend. At first she considers him slovenly and unkempt, but he’s pretty much the only person in the office—or in her life in general—who treats her like a normal person. (We told you you’d cry.)
It’s funny, sad and satisfying to see Eleanor begin to creep out of her shell, and, without giving too much away, we will say that while her entrée to the modern world is bumpy and at times tragic, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
Eleanor Oliphant may be completely fine, but this book is completely wonderful.