A Relatable Protagonist For Us Weirdos

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I fell into this book after realizing the first chapter accurately (creepily) described my young adult life. It opens by describing the mundane weekly routines of Eleanor as an introduction of how “black and white” she thinks and how introverted she acts.

My first connection with her over her typical Friday night – I look forward to quietly slipping out of work before co-workers notice, eat pizza religiously every Friday, watch unpopular shows on Netflix with red wine in hand until….. whatever time I pass out for a 12 hour night. Eleanor prefers BBC, vodka, and not quite making it to her bed before passing out; however you can see this was not a typical character even from the first few pages.

The first hundred pages demonstrate how brutally awful Eleanor’s social skills/awareness are and introduce a few other main characters. For example- she naively packs cheese slices, open snacks, and a jug of milk as a hostess gift for a party …oblivious to the judgement peers send her way.

I must admit I also must unknowingly lack a few of these social skills since the character’s dialogue or situations felt strangely familiar.

As soon as you think the plot may level off or “maybe the author developed these characters so well but kept a stagnate plot” it takes off with a dramatic climax and then a shocking twist that I wasn’t expecting.

It was refreshing  to have a book with a different protagonist personality – someone that is more realistic and unique. There are more stories depicting mental illness now but very few describe how those illnesses or past traumas affect social skills and relationships while keeping the tone light. This book has placed the subject in the back of the reader’s mind as the character goes about daily tasks instead of dwelling on a diagnoses or being overly dramatic.

Lately, so many books I’ve read have characters that make illogical decisions just to keep the plot rolling or do not have the depth to make you close the book cover and think “wow I feel like I know them inside and out”. They may have a standard or “basic” stock character that could be found in nearly any other book across fiction.

Maybe you have better luck at choosing titles, this was a rare find for me. I appreciate how detailed this author was to create a quirky, awkward, but lovable dynamic character and still has me thinking about her (as if she were real) days after reading.

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