My sister-in-law gave me a simple-looking book: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. You should read it.
**Note: I don't normally like to "gender" stereotype books, but it's definitely women's fiction. Sorry. There's a (hilarious) bikini-waxing scene in addition to many other bits that I don't think men would like or understand. **
How can a book make me laugh SO HARD and also be about the growing-up experience of a woman who was severely traumatized as a child? How can a book have SUCH recondite vocabulary and still be accessible? How can I get that awful oh-please-no-i-know-what's-coming-next awkwardness where you're DYING with secondary embarrassment for a character and somehow still endear her to you?
You should read this book. Lots of language and some tough issues, but entirely worth it. This would be a great book club read. SO MUCH to discuss. SO MANY characters to love and hate and gossip about.
Did you like the movie White Oleander? This book has elements of that... how women treat women, how mothers and daughters relate, how foster care can impact a child...
Did you like Sherlock's last episode? (Of course you did, because you are brilliant!) Someone reminded me of Euros, too, in a weird way. Long-gone memories and unclear motivations. Sadness. So so much sadness, but told in a redeeming way.
I think the reason the book is so fascinating is its EXTREME everyday-ness juxtaposed against the extraordinary life story it is revealing. There is a huge element of mystery playing beneath the surface, and it is a treat to learn -- alongside Eleanor -- what is coming and what has already happened.
There is a TON of social awkwardness, easily on pay with Dwight & Michael, yet all believable. No one shoots the ceiling or fakes a fire. Just a person navigating social conventions that are completely beyond her grasp. And frankly, she offers Seinfeld-level "did you ever notice" hilarious commentary on a LOT of it.
One of my favorite passages:
"I'd made my legs black and my hair blonde. I'd lengthened and darkened my lashes, dusted a flush of pink onto my cheeks and painted my lips a shade of dark red which was rarely found in nature. I should, by rights, look less like a human woman than I'd ever done, and yet it seemed that this was the most acceptable, the most appropriate appearance that I'd ever made to the world. It was puzzling."
I love how she's pointing out that only by changing herself to someone else's standard does she feel like a woman -- when she is already one to begin with! What an ODDITY, but such a TRUTH.
I also have to give a shout-out professionally to these hilarious tid-bit about the clients of her graphic design firm (where she is a financial professional):
I read this in a day and a half (granted the full day was a snow day for my kids). But still. very fast-paced for 325 pages.