Whatever happened to the Odd Kid on your block? Everybody grew up with at least one; I’m talking about those kids who seem to be born outsiders, who say and do unpredictable things and never fit in well with the rest. The kids that even surprise the adults when they talk. You know the ones I mean. And if you don’t have one of these kids in your memory, you might have been the class misfit. God knows I was one.
So what? I can verify that most of us card-carrying weirdos eventually discover friends of our own. We become reasonably functional adults. But time has stood still for Eleanor Oliphant. At thirty, she’s still the Odd Kid on The Block, although now she’s an Oddball at Work. She doesn’t have any friends (unless you count Vodka and Mummy). And, despite the title of Gayle Honeyman’s brilliant first novel, Eleanor Oliphant is NOT Completely Fine,
Stuck in a Rut
Eleanor is, if anything, stuck in a rut, one she’s carefully constructed. Every morning, she dons black pants, white shirt. She does (and eats) the same thing each day on her lunch break. Eleanor always takes the same bus. She talks to Mummy on the same day of every week and drinks from Friday night until well into Sunday. Part of this is a habit, but part is how Eleanor copes with the world, a place that has rarely been kind. She’s constructed routines for protection. But even Eleanor doesn’t realize all the things she’s hiding from or how much good there is in life to uncover. And it’s a joy to discover it with her.
No Filter/No-Nonsense Girl
Listening to Eleanor describe her own life is by turn hilarious or incredibly painful as she is the original No-Filter-Girl. She describes some horrors from her past with such emotional detachment that you wonder what ails the poor girl. Anyone else recounting this kind of personal experience would be sobbing all over themselves. But Eleanor reports her history with such matter-of-fact acceptance that many readers debate whether her response is due to Autism or the profound abuse she’s endured. Whatever the reason, we become mesmerized by her voice.
For Eleanor does have a voice, stunningly original and perceptive about the human condition. “These days, loneliness is the new Cancer” she observes, “a shameful, embarrassing thing.” And for all of her independence, Eleanor is a lonely woman. But the story of how this unusual woman starts breaking her self-imposed isolation is the hit of the year. Eleanor can make you laugh and cry but most of all she makes you glad you’ve found her. Eleanor Oliphant may be the Odd Kid on the Block but she’s also a good person and friend.