This book saved me from a reading rut — and then some.
I recently moved to a new building and found, to my delight, that my neighbours have an informal book-sharing dynamic going on near the garbage disposal room. As one does, I stopped to see what was there and this book caught my eye both because of its catchy title, and because the book itself was not in the best condition.
In my experience, when books are so beat-up it can only signal two things: complete neglect, or an utter inability to put them down. I chose to believe the latter, so I took it home with me. I’m so glad I did.
This book had me laughing and on the verge of tears in a single sentence. I appreciated this book for many reasons, especially for its use of humour. I am a fan of comedy and have always used it to process life events, especially hard ones. This book used this resource in such an artful way; it never minimized the complex, heavy issues it was dealing with. On the contrary, it makes the reader grapple with the very nature of human emotion. I don’t know about you, but I rarely experience one emotion 100%. I frequently find some sadness in my anger, some nostalgia in my happiness, some relief in my frustration, and even some humour in my grief.
We are complex beings who face complex situations. And yet, we are also paradoxically simple creatures who often overcomplicate simple situations that require simple solutions. This is partly what this book taught me and why I loved it so much. It was like holding a mirror and seeing into myself, but also into others who are silently, and even perhaps unknowingly, hurting. It was like holding a mirror to our institutions that routinely fail the most vulnerable. It was like holding a mirror to a society that continues to rip itself apart, in part due to a lack of strong social bonds which are so desperately needed — after all we were never meant to do life alone. And this last point is one of the strongest ones that really hit home in this book.
Like many nowadays, I’ve battled with loneliness and depression. And like Eleanor Oliphant, I’ve often thought (and projected) that my life is completely fine. This book reminded me that though being fine is just fine, merely existing is not enough. But, it also reminded me that truly living is also not as extravagant as some movies or influencer posts might make us believe.
This book reminded me of how true life happens in the small moments of our day-to-day. Through this book, I remembered how good it feels to have someone’s hand on my shoulder as a sign of support when I’m going through a tough time. It reminded me how purposeful it is to serve others, even with seemingly menial tasks such as helping them fold their laundry. It also reminded me how important it also is to be there for others and mean it. How a simple, “thinking of you" text can completely change a person’s day, week or even (without wanting to sound dramatic, but it's true) life.
The takeaways in this book were not exactly novel or unheard of. The thing is, it seems that no matter how many times we hear them, we still don’t learn. We still become easily entangled in unfulfilling routines that drain our lives. We still complain. We still take others and the good things in our life for granted. We still gossip and envy. We still judge others without knowing them and their story. We still close ourselves to being vulnerable with others and keep them at bay. We still struggle with boundaries, mental health and with family dynamics.
We won’t stop doing those things and we won’t stop struggling, and this is why books like this one are so important. Literature, in general, is so important. They teach us, they challenge us, and they remind us how to be human. This book showed me it’s fine to be fine, but it’s also fine to not be fine. It’s fine to want to be more than fine, and it’s fine to be grateful for being fine. After having a few tough months (years?) myself in certain areas, this book was a refreshing reminder that like Eleanor Oliphant, though things won’t always be better or easier, I’ll be fine — and you will too.