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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine–healing for the traumatized

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

by Gail Honeyman

I had heard lots of chatter about Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine since before it was published. I found it to be one of those books that stays with you past the last page: the characters are unforgettable. It is Gail Honeyman’s debut novel, but it is so well written that you would think her an experienced author.

This is the tale of Eleanor Oliphant who clearly had a difficult childhood and then was shuttled off to a series of foster homes. She is very smart, but awkward socially. She endures her workweek in the accounting department at a graphic arts business, relieving her pain on the weekends with several bottles of vodka. Friendless, she decides to change her life by having a relationship with a singer she has a crush on from afar. Meanwhile, reality intervenes when she meets Raymond from the IT department. He is slightly unkempt, chews with his mouth open, and wears trainers (sneakers) all the time, but is also kind, understanding, and patient. Through Raymond and with help from a counselor, Eleanor learns what it can be like to have unconditional love and the physical touch of another human being.

She is tormented by weekly calls from “Mummy” who continues the verbal abuse and threats that Eleanor suffered during her childhood. The last part of the book centers around Eleanor facing the demons of her past. I was not expecting the ending in the way the story played out. It made me mentally revisit the plot and the trauma Eleanor had endured in a new light. In summary, it is a good book, but made for bad bedtime reading.

Rating: 5/5

Notes: 1. Blurbs about the book included “incredibly funny” and “hilarious.” I would label it “dark and sprinkled with humor.”

  1. If child abuse is a trigger for you, you might want to give this one a pass. Thankfully, there are not a lot of graphic descriptions, but it is an essential thread that runs through the book.
  2. Includes obscenities.
  3. This is a good book club read as there is so much to discuss. Penguin Books includes a Readers Guide comprised of an introduction, questions for discussion, and a conversation with the author.

Category: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction

Publication: 2017—Penguin Books

Memorable Lines:

His mother was still talking. “Denise was eleven when Raymond came along—a wee surprise and a blessing, so he was.” She looked at him with so much love that I had to turn away. At least I know what love looks like, I told myself. That’s something. No one had ever looked at me like that, but I’d be able to recognize it if they ever did.

It was halfway to dark by then, with both a moon and a sun sitting high in a sky that was sugar almond pink and shot with gold. The birds were singing valiantly against the coming night, swooping over the greens in long, drunken loops. The air was grassy, with a hint of flowers and earth, and the warm sweet outbreath of the day sighed gently into our hair and over our skin.

Was this how it worked, then, successful social integration? Was it really that simple? Wear some lipstick, go to the hairdressers and alternate the clothes you wear? Someone ought to write a book, or at least an explanatory pamphlet, and pass this information on.

It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered

It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered

by Lysa Terkeurst

It's Not Supposed to be This WayWe all have had or will have painful, disconcerting times in our lives—times when we feel that life is not supposed to be the way it is. Lysa Terkeurst, in It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, shares three major struggles she has been through over the course of a three year period. This book was written in the midst of these extremely hard times when the pain, both physical and emotional were still raw. She talks of her profound agony and grief in hopes that others will benefit from what she has learned and from having a friend walk alongside them through dark times. The despair we feel comes from disappointment which Lysa defines as the difference between our expectations of what life should be like and our reality.

Lisa had to face life-shattering, life-altering and potentially life-ending events with all of the usual questions. Why me? Why now? Regardless of the reader’s circumstances, they will be able to identify with the depth of Lysa’s pain even if the source is different.

This book is not a Hollywood style “tell all.” Lisa only shares enough of the details of her trials for the reader to understand that any one of these events could be more than a person could bear, and Lysa experiences three of them in a short timespan. She tells how she struggled against attacks from within and without and how leaning into God’s word and truth and love sustained her.

Lysa’s writing style is honest and accessible. She is a Bible teacher who has applied the truths of the Bible to her unique circumstances but is also able to show how they apply to anyone who feels that life is not supposed to be the way they are experiencing it. With chapter titles like “But How Do I Get Through the Next 86,400 Seconds,” you know that Lysa “gets it.” She understands just how making it through the tiny portions of one day can constitute a huge struggle.

Each chapter concludes with a “Going to the Well” section that summarizes the major points, provides related Scripture references, and offers questions to reflect on. She ends it with a heartfelt, from-the-soul prayer as she continues reaching out to and trusting in God, the source of her strength for the ache in her soul.

Rating:  5/5

Category: Christian, Nonfiction

Notes: Also available, a video teaching series for this book

Publication:   November 13, 2018—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

Humans are very attached to outcomes. We say we trust God but behind the scenes we work our fingers to the bone and our emotions into a tangled fray trying to control our outcomes.

No, I believe it took every bit of holy restraint within Him to not step in and remove my pain. He loved me too much to do the very thing I was begging Him to do. He knew things I didn’t know. He saw a bigger picture I couldn’t see. His mercy was too great. His love too deep.

The thrashing winds of the storm are gone, but the consequences make it impossible to return to something that feels normal. We make brief visits to normal, but there’s a lot of emotional debris to which we must tend. Little by little, we make progress in the two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of way.

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