Social Butterfly {Book Club}

Social Butterfly {Book Club}

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!

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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!

Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

8 Comments

  1. Karen April 28, 2020

    I was also very surprised by the ending of the book. I can see now that there were a couple of foreshadowings, but hadn’t imagined the conclusion. I was also glad that the book ends with her talking to Raymond about her situation, with more of a focus on friendship and ongoing relationship, rather than a jump into romance with him. The focus on being able to walk honestly through life and to share it with other people seems a more fitting ending. I also liked that her co-workers all turn out to be reasonable, decent people who are rather quickly able to get past her previous awkwardness/disinteredness and welcome her into their circle a bit. Having worked in situations where people seemed to perpetually be stuck in adolescent drama (popularity contests, etc.) it’s nice to read of Eleanore’s co-workers instead being adults who are willing to accept her and continue to show kindness.

    1. Bayta Schwarz April 29, 2020

      I completely agree! I was so glad the story didn’t just go to a romantic relationship but that Eleanor gets to experience friendships of various kinds (with Raymond, Sammy’s family, even her coworkers)! Something I don’t think she’d ever known.

    2. Rachel Kahindi April 29, 2020

      Agree! I expected romance to blossom. The genuine friendships were a pleasant surprise. The coworkers’ reactions to Eleanor -compassion and acceptance – was also refreshing.

  2. Bayta Schwarz April 29, 2020

    I certainly did not see that twist coming at all! Until the very end, I was wondering how she might untangle that particular situation…
    The theme of kindness also resonated so much with me throughout the book. The beauty and power of what on the surface are just simple, small acts of kindness shine through to beautifully! It has challenged me and made me reflect on my own everyday encounters. Particularly interesting in this season, when they are so few and far between. I know I have been more aware of (though not always succeeding at) choosing kindness even as I meet people in supermarkets etc. Which is about all that happens right now… Maybe a good training ground for when I’ll again be surrounded by a lot of people on public transport. Not a situation that generally brings out kindness in me…
    I have really loved this book – thanks to whoever picked it!

    1. Rachel Kahindi April 29, 2020

      I think we both picked it… Amy Young had it on her top 10 last year, which convinced me that we should read it, and Sarah had it on her to be read list, too!

      I read several reviews, and what the book turned out to be want what I was expecting at all, but in a good way.

  3. Sarah Hilkemann April 29, 2020

    My sister read this before me and told me there was a twist at the end- but I still wasn’t prepared! 🙂 I loved this book so much, though. I loved the ways Eleanor found healing and connection and friendship. Like others who have commented, it was nice that she and Raymond ended up as such close friends (with a window open for a future romance I think but it didn’t rush there). It was such a good reminder that we need each other, we need to check on each other and take care of one another!

    1. Rachel Kahindi May 1, 2020

      I’ve often joked that I would be content as a hermit, but you’re right: we need each other!

  4. Heidi May 9, 2020

    I picked this up only after my first VA Retreat, when I noticed there’s a VA Book Club and found out I have access to this audio book on my audio/e-book service. Now that I finally finished, I thought I’ll post a comment. I had a very pleasant experience with Eleanor Oliphant listening to the audio book, diving into her story. One thing that stuck with me, was the importance of having someone stay at your side even when things get hard. Eleanor experienced it for the first time with Raymond and reminded me that you should never take for granted having people in your life who don’t leave you during hard times. Having experienced depression myself, it was also comforting to listen Eleanor find safe environment with the therapist to start working through her experiences and recovering. It was wonderful to hear a story of finding hope and healing! Always need a reminder that it’s possible to find that healing and renewal in your life, but also that you need those loving relationships on your way there. Next I’ll continue to catch up with For the Joy!

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