First, a short story to set the stage. This is a true story. It happened just a few day ago when I was at the grocery store. As I was approaching the entrance, I noted a rather rough-looking teenager sitting on the curb, head dropped between her knees, rather like a cocoon. Unwashed hair, disheveled clothes, and lots of leather bracelets covering her wafer-thin arms. An elderly woman walked up, leaned down and gently touched the girl’s shoulder and asked, “Are you okay, dear?” The young girl, lifted her head. At first, there was angst written all over her face, clearly annoyed at the interruption. And then a small smile spread across her face, and her entire persona changed within a heart beat. She unfolded herself, looked up at the elderly woman and replied, “I’m good. Really. Just waiting. But thank you so much for asking.” The woman nodded and walked into the store, leaving the teen smiling after her. One moment of grace — that was all it took to change one girl’s disposition, even if just for that precise moment in time. We don’t know what she was feeling before, but clearly, the interaction had a positive impact on her. Clearly the interaction had a positive on me.
It made me think about acts of kindness and how they can have such a profound impact on another person. It made me think about how important human connection is to our psyche and our well-being. It made me think about Eleanor Oliphant.
Eleanor — a socially-awkward bookkeeper with a mysterious past and a troubling mother-daughter relationship. Eleanor — completely friendless and totally alone in the world, with no one to keep her company but the two bottles of vodka she buys on the way home from work every Friday. Eleanor – stuck in her rigid routines and laughed at by her co-workers for her quirky ways and her inability to interact.
Until she meets Raymond. Raymond is her computer geeky, chain-smoking, junk-food eating new co-worker. And through endless acts of kindness, Raymond slowly and ever so sweetly, brings Eleanor out of her shell. With Raymond’s help, Eleanor begins to connect with others, forming friendships and learning how to engage with society. He helps her create the life she never dreamed was possible.
For sure, Eleanor and Raymond are both endearing characters that you immediately adore. Raymond for his heart of gold. And Eleanor, for that little awkward part of yourself that you try to hide away. But lest you think this book is too saccharine for your taste, Honeyman expertly contrasts this heartwarming story with a darker plot. Abuse, alcoholism, and childhood trauma all lurk behind the scenes. Honeyman dangles snippets of Eleanor’s murky past, providing just enough intrigue and bitterness to reel in this sweet story, and leave you wanting more.
Funny and sad. Heart-warming and heart-breaking. This is a story about friendship, trust, empathy and our innate need to connect with others. So read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and let it open your heart to acts of everyday kindness. In our tech-focused society, it is easy to forget how meaningful it is to share a moment and really connect with someone, even a stranger in front of the grocery store.