May, 2019: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

(Marcia objected to the artist’s choice of apparel for the cover art.)

When I was assigning which book we should read each month, White Teeth was a natural fit in January because the book starts at 0627 hours on January 1; Like Water for Chocolate worked for February because of all the chocolate sold and consumed for Valentines’ Day; and the young heroine in I Capture the Castle starts her journaling in late March/April. Other books didn’t offer a perfect fit and it was with irony that I slotted Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine in the Mothers’ Day month of May given the knowledge of Eleanor’s weekly phone calls with Mummy.

So tonight was a celebration of what Eleanor’s life could have been like if she had caught a break and had the great good fortune to be born to someone like our hostess this evening. We are very grateful to Susan to host so quickly after her trip to Texas to be with her daughter, Alex for the birth of her granddaughter, Savannah Grace. The evening began with a shower of great board books and hardcovers that Susan can read to Savannah via face time if need be! We all enjoyed hearing about the baby and looking at the darling photos. We were offered a choice of red or white wines or Eleanor’s drink of choice Magners and we enjoyed cheese, crackers and olives while Susan opened her gifts.

The meal included home made pesto in a delicious penne pasta dish with chicken and tomatoes. Susan was ready to order pizza if the pasta didn’t turn out as planned but there was no need of that. The pasta was served with a lovely Caesar salad and bread. When the dinner dishes were collected Sharon suggested passing them all her way so that she might load them up and take them home with her as she has been coveting them for years now, but Susan suggested the opposite direction.  Dessert was a delicious lemon pudding with whipped cream and lemon cookies. 

Discussion about the book was lively — it received high marks from all of us. Karen liked that she was able to share the book with her 30 yr. old daughter who also enjoyed it; Chris was the only one who knew something was fishy with the calls from Mummy; I thought that Raymond and his mother were two people I’d like to see cloned; Marcia was fond of Sammy; Mary appreciated the unfolding of Eleanor’s character and Rosalie enjoyed the fresh and clever writing. Sharon and I mentioned that Eleanor’s behavior was like that of someone on the autism spectrum but Chris felt her behaviors were consistent with trauma, and well, Chris was right about the Mummy thing, so…It was somewhat bewildering to be celebrating our fourth gramma in the group, reading a book which elucidates the long term effects of childhood trauma and discussing the return to the past in the Alabama legislature. While our comments were loudly pro-choice, if there is anything of which I am certain, it is that there is no disregard for human life in this group. 

Thanks to Susan, our hostess. Thanks to all. Our June meeting to discuss The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood will be at Chris’ home on Tuesday, June 18. Respectfully submitted, T

post script: There may be, however, some disregard for the human psyche in the group in that Sharon pointed out that Geek Love is NOT a debut novel, but rather Katherine Dunn’s third novel.  I have spent the rest of the evening wondering how in the world it made it onto the list of 36 books from which we selected this year’s twelve. I will be here for the foreseeable future worrying about how I did that, sensing that I’m ruined and that I’ll soon be cleaning my sink with parmesan cheese.

Since that evening, I was able to find the list which had led me astray. It was a list on Flavorwire from October of 2014 entitled “50 of the Greatest Debut Novels Since 1950.” In an effort to polish up my sullied reputation I explained to Sharon that Geek Love was one of the choices on the Literary Map of the US and it had received an almost equal number of votes as To The Bright Edge of the World which was the one we read — so when I saw it on a list of debuts I jumped on it to give it another chance to make our reading list — clearly without checking.