Book Club, reader's advisory

The After Party – Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels – September 2019

Morning Book Break and Books and Bagels Book Discussion Groups on
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Ratings:
The Books and Bagels Book Discussion Group members rated the book between a 4.0 and 5.0 with two members giving the book a 3.5. The average of the ratings was 4.62.  Two members did not like the humor and thought nothing could be funny when you consider the trauma Eleanor suffered.

The Morning Book Break Book Discussion Group rated the book between a 4.0 and 5.0 with one member giving the book a 3.0. The average of the ratings was 4.53.

Review:
In the seven years the facilitator has been conducting these clubs, this book received the highest favorable ratings. The author masterfully wove pathos and humor together, which is a very difficult task. Members have been recommending this novel to everyone.  Everyone rooted for Eleanor and we were not disappointed. Terrific life lessons were presented in the novel, such as; kindness creating a ripple effect in the community and kindness working its own kind of magic.

Discussion Highlights:

  • Club members like that Honeyman developed a good friendship between Eleanor and Raymond. 

We discussed the qualities in Raymond that allow Eleanor to feel comfortable with him which created an atmosphere for her to open up. They were thrilled that Honeyman did not end the novel with a romantic Hollywood ending instead Honeyman allows the relationship to develop naturally, displaying how the two main characters support each other.

  • Honeyman makes a point to show how small acts of kindness have a ripple effect. Raymond insists that Eleanor help Sammy, an old man who has fallen in the street, and at first Eleanor is put off and judgmental, but this is the beginning of her growth. This simple task of helping another changed her life. In the Books and Bagels Book Discussion Group members shared small acts of kindness that were significant to them.  The book points out that not all scars are visible and that kindness works wonders.
  • The novel sheds light on mental illness, depression, survivor guilt and how judgmental people can be. It highlights emotional abuse, physical abuse, and child neglect.  The group discussed Mummy and the effects she had on Eleanor. We discussed why Eleanor continued her weekly phone calls with Mummy.
  • We discuss the meaning of the title.
  • Members discussed the trauma Eleanor experienced as a child and how she easily developed a teenage crush on the musician, Johnnie.  
  • The clubs spent a lot of time discussing the final plot twist. Everyone was surprised by the ending and this evoked even more sympathy and understanding for Eleanor.  The members discussed Honeyman’s skillful writing and her use of red herrings in the novel to create suspense. As members read the novel, they thought Eleanor’s Mummy was either in prison or a mental institution or possibly it was a voice in Eleanor’s head.  Honeyman wrote the novel in the first person, so Eleanor is an unreliable narrator which helps to create further mystery and suspense. Readers tried to figure out what might be going on with Eleanor. Was she on the spectrum? Did she have OCD? Did she hear voices? 
  • The author wanted to braid two related ideas together.  The first was the idea of loneliness and the other strand was that of social awkwardness. “I realized that I wanted to tell a story about someone like this, or, rather, someone who’d ended up like this, living a small life. A lonely person, a slightly awkward person, and someone in whom loneliness and social awkwardness had become entwined and self-perpetuating.  I wanted to tell the story of how this had happened to her, and of what happened to her next, and this became the story of Eleanor Oliphant.” The author explores reasons that explain a person’s awkwardness. “Might there perhaps be something in their background or childhood experiences, some life event that had helped to shape them in this particular way?” We discussed whether or not the author was successful in her purpose and we also discussed the question of nature versus nurture. We discussed whether or not, Eleanor would be socially awkward if she had not had a traumatic childhood.
  • We discussed some of the funniest moments in the novel.  Due to the fact that Eleanor had an abusive childhood, two members did not find anything funny about the novel. Because Eleanor is blunt and has few filters she exhibits moments of astute social commentary, so we discussed these moments.  We discussed what factors contribute to her unconventional personality.
  • We discussed the main theme of the novel, which seemed to be: “I suppose one of the reasons we’re able to continue to exist for our allotted span in this green and blue vale of tears is that there is always, however remote it might seem, the possibility of change.” The book has a wonderful joyful message which is why it is resonating with so many readers.
  • We discussed how Glenn the cat is a metaphor for the change Eleanor experiences and how the simple act of caring for others nurtures us and a healthy cycle is created in society.

Resources:

Gail Honeyman sends a thank you to libraries and librarians:
Interesting Podcast, Gail Honeyman shares in-depth about the UK newspaper article about loneliness in young people and how she incorporated this information into her character, Eleanor.

Read-a-Likes:

new DVDs, reader's advisory

New DVDs – September 2019

The following films have been added to our collection during the month of September.
MPAA ratings follow each title in parentheses, with (NR) denoting the film is not rated.  If a language other than English follows the film title, the film will be in that language with optional English subtitles.

Alita: Battle Angel (PG-13)
All is True (PG-13)
All You Ever Wished For (NR)
Avengers: Endgame (PG-13)
Breakthrough (PG)
Brightburn (R)
A Dog’s Journey (PG)
El Chicano (R)
Family (R)
Fast Color (PG-13)
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (PG-13)
Greater (NR)
Heavens to Betsy 2 (NR)
High Life (R)
Hotel Mumbai (R)
The Hustle (PG-13)
I’m Not Here (NR)
The Intruder (PG-13)
Little Woods (R)
Long Shot (R)
Ma (R)
Men in Black International (PG-13)
No Date, No Signature (Farsi)(NR)
Poms (PG-13)
Rocketman (R)
Saint Judy (PG-13)
Shadow (NR)
Storm Boy (PG)
The Sun is Also a Star (PG-13)
Tolkien (PG-13)
Unplanned (R)
The White Crow (R)
X-Men: Dark Phoenix (PG-13)

Updated 9/25/19