There are a number of questions that get asked pretty frequently about this book, so I thought I’d just answer them here. ng>
For the full review and a detailed summary of the plot, see the Summary and Review for Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
Where can I find a full plot summary of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine?
Right here! Summary and Review for Where the Crawdads Sing. (Note: you’ll need to scroll to the very bottom of the page and click “Show/Hide the Detailed Plot Summary (Spoilers)”)
Is Eleanor Oliphant autistic? Does she have Aspergers Syndrome (part of the autism spectrum)?
So, this question gets asked and debated a lot. Here’s the support for the two arguments.
Eleanor Oliphant is Not Autistic: Support
The book never refers to Eleanor Oliphant as being specifically autistic. The word “autistic” (and any variant thereof) never appears in the book. Most importantly, Gail Honeyman specifically states that Eleanor Oliphant is not on the spectrum: ““Eleanor isn’t anywhere on the spectrum,” says Honeyman. “She is the product of nurture, not nature; traumatic events in her childhood have shaped her. But I was really keen not to portray her as tragic or a victim; she has agency and the power to make her own decisions.”
In other words, Honeyman is indicating that Eleanor’s personality is a result of her past.
Eleanor Oliphant is Autistic: Support
The argument that Eleanor Oliphant is autistic usually follows based on the description of her in the book. She’s described with certain traits that are commonly associated with people who are on the autism spectrum. For example, she is described as being socially awkward, having intense emotional reactions to things, has a desire for routine and repetition. She also displays a large variance in abilities that tends to be seen in people with autism (being very good at certain things).
So, what’s the verdict? Honestly, I think going with the author’s take is probably the easiest, since at the end of the day she’s an imaginary character. If you see it differently, that’s fine too since it’s okay to interpret books as you see fit.
(If you read my review of the book, you’ll see that I’m of the view that the character of Eleanor Oliphant is so inconsistent that it’s not worth debating.)
How did Eleanor Oliphant get her scars? What scars does she have?
Early on, Eleanor Oliphant describes the scars on her face: “It doesn’t bother me at all when people react to my face, to the ridged, white contours of scar tissue that slither across my right cheek, starting at my temple and running all the way down to my chin.”
Part ways through the book, we find out that Eleanor got her scars on her face when she was ten years old.
At the end of the book, we find out more details. The fire was set by her mother, and Eleanor’s sister (Marianne) died in that fire as well.
What’s the deal with Eleanor Oliphant’s mother?
At the end of the book, we find out that Eleanor Oliphant’s mother is dead, and she has been dead the whole time. She died in the fire that she (her mother) set, which is the same one that Marianne (her sister) died in. We know this based on the article that Raymond finds on the internet about the fire.
So yes, the “conversations” Eleanor has with her mother are in her head.
What is the plot twist in Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine?
The big plot twist happens at the very end of the book. We find out that Eleanor Oliphant’s mother was dead the entire time. She died when Eleanor was 10. So all the conversations that Eleanor is having with her “mother” are in her head.
Can you explain the ending of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine?
Sure. So, Eleanor had a difficult childhood, growing up in foster homes and throughout the book she keeps in contact with her mother, who puts her down a lot. We know there was a bad event during her childhood, resulting in her scarring from a fire, but don’t know the details.
At the end of the book, Eleanor gets help, goes to therapy and starts to learn to form connections with those around her. A major event occurs when Raymond shows Eleanor what he learned about her childhood. He had looked it up and found an article that describes what really happened to Eleanor. When Eleanor was 10 years old, her mentally disturbed mother set a fire. It killed both her mother and Eleanor’s sister, Marianne, and it left Eleanor with permanent scarring on her face.
So, know that the “conversations” that Eleanor has been having with her mother are imaginary. They’re simply voices in Eleanor’s head. At the end, Eleanor comes to see that it’s imaginary and comes to appreciate that the important thing is that she got through it all. The book ends with Eleanor and Raymond sharing a kiss.
Still confused over something? Drop a comment below and I’ll try to answer if I can! :)