Over the course of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Eleanor underwent a drastic transformation. She reminds me of a butterfly. It’s not a perfect metaphor, but the transformation is there.
In the first chapters, Eleanor was living her very simple life. She claimed to be fine, completely fine, in fact. She seemed quirky and socially awkward, but with the first introduction of her mother, we knew things were not ok. Decidedly not fine. She ignored the reality because she wasn’t equipped to deal with how un-fine she was.
After her breakdown, Eleanor spent weeks on sick leave (her cocoon!). Talking through her childhood trauma in therapy, she was completely undone, like a caterpillar turning to goo before becoming a butterfly. This prepared her to be put back together – better, healthier, more whole.
Finally Eleanor emerged ready to face the world anew. She was still quirky and socially awkward, but she was changed. After one interaction, she said, “Eleanor, I said to myself, sometimes you’re too quick to judge other people.” Suddenly, she recognized that the judgmental voice in her head was her mother’s voice. And she found that she actually liked her own voice! I may or may not have fist pumped when Eleanor stated, “I’ve spent far too long taking direction from Mummy.”
After finally facing her past with a good therapist, she was also able to talk about the truth with Raymond. The last chapter revealed one final truth. (I’m not going to say it because you might not have finished, but if you did – were you as shocked as I was?!) And now we can agree with Eleanor that she is fine.
Transformation is hard. We all recognize that we need to change. Maybe we want to change something about our appearance or start some healthier habits. Maybe we know we need to change thought patterns and attitudes. Maybe we need to stop harmful behaviors. It’s not easy to get out of our old patterns and into better ones. We need help: friends, professionals, the Holy Spirit.
The goal Eleanor set for her transformation was not the goal she reached. But her efforts to change started her down the right path, and the end was so much better than what she was aiming for.
I have one final thought. We cannot underestimate the importance of kindness. Much more was needed to correct the toxicity of Eleanor’s mother. Simple kindness cannot do all of that, but it does something. Had Eleanor not been accidentally walking with Raymond when Sammy collapsed at the beginning of the book, she still would have been alone through her attempts at transformation and the breakdown. Every relationship, every friendship, and every positive encounter she had followed her and Raymond taking care of Sammy. Instead of being rescued by Raymond during her bad days and being encouraged to get help, where would she be?
What did you think of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine? What has stuck with you since you finished reading it? Let’s talk in the comments!
In May we will be reading For the Joy: 21 M Mother Stories. Even if you aren’t married or a mom, this book will be encouraging and so good to read all together. No matter what stage of life you are in, your heart will resonate with the women who tell their stories!
Here’s the schedule for the book:
May 5: Foreword, Intro, Chapters 1-5
May 12: Chapters 6-10
May 19: Chapters 11-16
May 26: Chapters 17-21
We are so excited to be partnering with William Carey Publishing for this book, and they are offering us a 50% off code for the e-book version of For the Joy! Click on the link HERE and use the code VABOOKCLUB50!