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#BooksThatWon’tBumYouOut: Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine

by KJ in #AmReading

5 Things I Liked About Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine (and why I have THOUGHTS about the marketing of this one)

1. The main character. Main characters who do not understand how “normal” people interact and are actively trying to work that out are like catnip to me. Let’s don’t think too hard about what this says about my personality.
2. The story progression. Lots of things happen, but they’re all regular things. It’s the person they’re happening to that makes them important.
3. The main character’s positive—if definitely flawed—outlook on all she is and all she has been through.
4. ALL the characters. Once again, this is a book where you’d hang out with everyone involved. They’re all decent people. (Well, with one notable exception who really doesn’t count.) It’s what they’re working through and experiencing, and how, that makes them interesting.
5. The POV. I thought the first person here was incredibly well done. We never once know a single thing that Eleanor doesn’t know, and she knows a fair number of things that we don’t, but in a way that really feels like these are her thoughts and who she is at this moment in her story. It felt smart and right, and yes, sometimes funny. BUT:

Ok, this is where we come to my thoughts on the marketing of this book. The back of the book is all “she’s deadpan weird” and “wacky and charming” and “everything changes when she meets the bumbling IT guy with the big heart!”

Does any of that suggest to you that the book is about a person who was severely abused as a child—or a story where that history really lies at the core of the character’s inner journey?

Let me answer that for you. It doesn’t. And maybe that’s because no one would read it, and that would be sad, because this is STILL a charming and weird book. It’s hopeful and funny and definitely goes in the #booksthatwon’tbumyouout category. And I liked it a lot. But the first time I tried to read it, I put it down, because that was so deeply not what I was expecting. I felt confused, especially because it was like a back-of-the-book conspiracy: NOTHING suggested the real story.

I’m glad I went back to Eleanor Oliphant. But I’m still questioning what went on there—although, it seems to have worked. If you know what to make of that, I want to hear it!


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