Douglas Coupland,
Eleanor Rigby
(Bloomsbury, 2005)

This book's title is an interesting one, as the story mentions the Beatles' song of the same name only once, I believe, when the main character gives out her Internet screen-name as EleanorRigby, but the story could very well be an extension or extrapolation of the life of the song's title character. Liz Dunn is not ordinary or mundane, but is immersed in the idea that she is less than those things. She repeatedly tells the reader that she is overweight, plain, invisible in a crowd, detached, empty and chronically, hopelessly lonely.

That is, until her world turns upside-down, which is not always a bad thing. Much of the story occurs when Liz is 36, but her life changes when Jeremy, like the comet that so inspired her to try to change, flashes through her life. Who is Jeremy? A quirky, bright, imaginative, charming 20-year-old who happens to be the son Liz gave up for adoption right after his birth. While Jeremy is only in Liz's life for a short time, he inspires her, invigorates her and helps her to transcend her own self-fulfilling self-image.

Several more things occur in Liz's life, after Jeremy's departure, that push the limits of credibility, but Douglas Coupland does not always follow the Law of Necessary Credibility (e.g., one of the main characters from Hey Nostradamus! is already dead when that story begins). Some readers might feel these over-the-edge elements spoil the story, while others might feel, as I do, that the tale is so enjoyable I am perfectly willing to heartily suspend my disbelief and go with the flow of absurdity all the way to its charming, wistful and, to me, endearing end.

Liz Dunn of Eleanor Rigby shows us that chronic loneliness is neither fatal nor incurable. Some people need to hear that. It was a nice reminder for me, even though I already knew it. Here's to all the lonely people: find a way out, as there is always a path to happiness somewhere. It might not be easy to find or to follow, but why does it have to be easy?

by Chris McCallister
13 May 2006

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