Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: I bought this book just a few days after it was published, thanks to Goodreads. The fact that the debutant author had won an award for it while writing the book further piqued my interest in reading it. I love books that dig deep into the lives (much below the surface) of strong female protagonists and this one did just that and much more! I think the acidic humour, piggy-backing on the protagonist’s dark history/childhood is what I loved about it the most. I’ve read ‘A man called Ove’, ‘The Rosie Project’ and to a lesser extent ‘The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry’, all about larger-than-life, introvert, quirky characters with sad underpinnings and that Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine was about a female central character just sealed my love for the book. It’s undoubtedly THE best book I have read this year.
Here are some of my favourite parts from the book:
I saw him bend down to light the cigarette of a woman in a wheelchair – she’d brought her drip with her, on wheels, so she could destroy her health at the same time as taxpayers’ money was being used to try and restore it.
After some contemplation, I had opted for a square of indeterminate white fish, which was coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried and then inserted between an overly sweet bread bun, accompanied, bizarrely, by a processed cheese slice, a limp lettuce leaf, and some salty tangy white slime which bothered on obscenity.
Hilarious, but so much tongue-in-cheek humour!
Wonder by RJ Palacio: Though this book was released a couple of years ago, I read it only in 2017. Of course, it is now wildly popular, alongside its just-adapted film. I loved how this soul-baring tale made me confront my own prejudices and biases about people, appearances and ‘being different’. I love that this book has sparked conversations about kindness, friendship, bias and doing the ‘right thing’ among people between the ages 6 and 60! It certainly did in my family.
Babies and Bylines by Pallavi Aiyar: While I largely stay away from parenting self-help kind of books, I loved this memoir (wasn’t a self-help book!) about parenting by a journalist. It is funny and honest and really much more than a memoir – literally a treatise on life, work, cultural identity, the funny and not-funny sides of raising a child, for both mums and dads. The author was able to articulate some thoughts on women and work that have lived in my head for too long.
The lines ‘I do think that every woman needs to be defined beyond motherhood. What that means to an individual is subjective. To me, it means ‘working’ as conventionally defined: paid employment outside the home, although I am aware that this is because I am privileged by my education and upbringing to be able to perform work that I enjoy’, struck a powerful chord with me; I feel the exact same way about my professional work.
As for new authors, I read Shelter by Jung Yun, a novel by a Korean-American (published in 2016), about a dysfunctional immigrant family, with a well-flowing storyline and narration. I’m excited to read more family fiction (think Anne Tytler) by immigrant Americans set in the US. Secondly, Chemistry (published in 2017) by Weike Wang, was another debut book by a Chinese-American writer about an unnamed PhD student and her anxieties of her academic and love lives, narrated in a moving, quirky fashion. I so love immigrant stories and Wang’s first novel has whetted my appetite for more. Thirdly, Vitamin D by Rachel Khong, (published in 2017), is a sunny narrative peppered with beautiful details. It follows a 30-year-old woman, fresh from a break-up, who returns to live in her parental home, to care for her dad, who has Alzheimer’s. This author is yet another Asian-American. I think I love narratives around Asian families since they typically tend to be closed and less-revealing than American ones, and I’m excited to see what more these authors will deliver!