Our flyleaf book shop January 2018 Book Club book was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. In preparation for the meeting, I wrote some questions for the wise and wonderful women that would be joining me. (I found it difficult to find good questions online to prepare so I gave it my best shot. Feel free to edit it them in whatever ways you’d like.)
- What was your first impression of Eleanor? What assumptions did you make about her quirks?
- Eleanor’s mother was abusive in every way–neglect, psychologically, physically-can childhood trauma create mental illness? Weigh in on nature vs nurture here.
- Eleanor has stored away layers of grief, for her sister and her mother, one innocent, one guilty. Discuss the mother-child connection and the confusing emotions that grieving an abusive parent must bring.
- Raymond’s character is flawed (a bit immature with the gaming, partying and chain-smoking) but he seems to have a heart of gold. Do you think the author wanted to paint a picture of good-hearted people coming from good mothers? And if so, discuss the reality that Eleanor too had a heart of gold, buried under rigid routines and learned judgments.
- Can you pinpoint a time when it seemed Eleanor’s heart started to soften? What experiences do you think played the biggest part in her shift toward a more healthy mind and heart?
- Eleanor becomes obsessed with a musician and begins stalking him online, and even goes to his apartment and stands outside the door. She becomes consumed by the idea of him, and the picture he paints of himself online. Is this abnormal behavior? Or is this the beginning of some pretty typical behavior that Eleanor has never been interested in before? If so, why this guy?
- Raymond and Eleanor help a man named Sammy after he falls on the street. It turns out that this man is endearing, loving and accepting. How do you think this helps Eleanor? What does she learn from him and his family?
- Do you think Raymond asks Eleanor for help with Sammy, visiting him at the hospital, etc., because he doesn’t want to do it alone? Or what do you think were his intentions?
- Discuss Raymond’s gift of a cat in need, for Eleanor. How does the cat help heal Eleanor and what did you love about that relationship?
- Can mental illness get better, or even be vanquished by love and healing? What were your thoughts about the healthy turns Eleanor took? (Quitting drinking, beginning therapy, changing her mind about her rigidity, seeming to accept others more as they are, etc.) Did it come across as a bit easy?
- What was your prediction about the trauma referred to over and over in Eleanor’s childhood throughout the book? Did you figure out that she lost a sister? Did you predict the twist revealed at the end of the book?
- Do you think Eleanor fully believed she was talking with her mother weekly? Why or why not?
Our next read is Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. We will meet on Monday, February 26th at 7pm at the book shop!
Here are our next reads along with Eleanor, which you will be able to purchase at the book shop, or feel free to order them if you just cannot wait….