So I had heard about this book as folks chatted about it in the blogisphere. Everyone seemed to love it, so I was immediately suspicious. I find that if everyone loooooves a book, I can’t stand it. Then I end up feeling rather clumsy and socially awkward, like something is wrong with me. However, I got this one with my audible credit and listened to it during my commute. At first I was wondering where it was going, but then I was drawn in and grew to love Eleanor and Raymond and Eleanor’s story. I ended up laughing and cheering and crying and generally being a possible road hazard. It was also delightfully read by Cathleen McCarron and I loved her accent.

Here’s the overview from Amazon:

No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes…

The only way to survive is to open your heart.

Audiobook Review: BROOKLYN by Colm Tóibín


So I’ve joined a new book group. Generally I don’t have good luck with book clubs since folks find my enthusiasm for books “off-putting”. Many years ago I was asked to leave a book club (filled with many women I did not know – a large group) because apparently my love of books and ability to chat about them made other people feel “insecure” (got to be honest, when I got THAT phone call, I thought they were joking; I mean who gets kicked out of a book club for liking books?!).

Anyways – I now am in a book group at my work and I figure: these gals are stuck with me EVERY DAY! So hopefully I won’t get booted.

We read BROOKLYN by Colm Tóibín. I had read his NORA WEBSTER (Review), and even though I do find that most of the popular Irish writers are brilliant writers, I find them to a be a slightly miserable lot. I have to say Tóibín captures life in its simplest, most basic form, shining a light past the veneer of what one shows to the everyday world and highlighting the starkness of emotion that lies beneath.

I purchased this book from Audible to listen to in the car. Kirsten Potter did an amazing job with the voices and accents. It runs for about 7 and a half hours.

Here’s the description from Amazon:

It is Enniscorthy in the southeast of Ireland in the early 1950s. Eilis Lacey is one among many of her generation who cannot find work at home. Thus when a job is offered in America, it is clear to everyone that she must go. Eilis heads for unfamiliar Brooklyn to a crowded boarding house. Slowly, the pain of parting is buried beneath the rhythms of her new life – until she begins to realize that she has found a sort of happiness. As she falls in love, news comes from home that forces her back to Ireland, where she finds new possibilities that conflict deeply with the life she has left behind in Brooklyn.


Eilis (which I’ve heard pronounced Ay-lis and Eye-lish depending on if it means “Alice” or “Elizabeth”) is a fairly typical young woman for her time. I have to say that her inability to really hold on to life and love or lust or feel joy or hate was muted for me.(apparently the movie is different). She seemed to just go back and forth wherever she was told to go and wasn’t a true player in her own future. I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her and yell: “Go on out there and make your future! Don’t just accept what’s put in front of you!”.

Definitely lots of fodder for book group to discuss. And of course the writing is magnificent  in the depths within its simplicity (if you know what I mean).

If you’ve read BROOKLYN – or even seen the movie (which I have coming from Netflix) – let me know what you think!




Publishing at the end of the month (July 28, 2015) is a really fantastic novel about female aviator Beryl Markham: Paula McLain’s CIRCLING THE SUN.

I first heard of Beryl Markham when I read her memoir, WEST WITH THE NIGHT. I was going through a “female aviator phase” and was reading about Anne Lindbergh (my personal hero – don’t get me started!), Amelia Earhart, and Beryl Markham. I had not heard of Beryl before, but found her absolutely fascinating! Beryl was English, but grew up in Kenya in the early years of the 1900’s. Her mother deserted her and her father and returned to England. Beryl was a wild child: precocious, tough, and in love with the land and culture of Africa. Nothing stopped her. Again and again she pushed against the restrictions against women. She became a noted horse trainer (first female). She became a bush pilot. She actually is the first female aviator to fly across the Atlantic east to west. A very personal side of Beryl is shown in this novel – her loves, her triumphs, her foibles. The love triangle with her, Karen von Blixen (Out of Africa author), and Denys Finch Hatten is portrayed in depth here. In all, you come to know Beryl Markham intimately.

I loved McLain’s earlier work, THE PARIS WIFE, and loved this novel, too. These characters came alive and are still with me, weeks after I finished the novel. They are so interesting – so real – so human. Don’t miss this one.

And if you like it, read Beryl’s own WEST WITH THE NIGHT.

Find them at an indie near you (I am an Indie Bound Affiliate):

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Thank you, Net Galley and Random House Ballantine, for my review copy!