by Brenda M. (Reston): “These days, loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted.”

“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night …”

At first, Eleanor Oliphant seemed to be similar to The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion in that the story focused on a socially awkward person seeking love. However, it was so much more than that and very definitely worth the read. This novel focused on the themes of loneliness, particularly in the younger generation, social awkwardness, acceptance from others and of oneself, healing, and taking healthy risks. Prior to the start of the novel, Eleanor Oliphant had a horrific childhood and difficult adolescence. She was still dealing with those implications and fallout when the novel began.

This story is dark, funny, and ultimately endearing. Eleanor is a complex, deep, and well-crafted character. The traumatic events that happened to her, how she internalized them, and people’s reactions to her were dark and difficult to read. However, Eleanor is a plucky character and her actions, opinions, and how she faced the world made me laugh out loud numerous times throughout the story. I can’t imagine finishing this book and not loving Eleanor. She is a very unusual protagonist!

I wish this novel had been a book club read for me, as there is so much fodder for discussion here. I particularly liked how multi-layered the title of this novel was. There are so many ways to interpret it in light of the story. I loved Eleanor’s observations about life, particularly about what it takes to socially fit-in and how that is so different between men and women. The way Eleanor gradually opens up to other people and life itself was also fascinating. I highly recommend this book and was very glad I read it.