My Year with Eleanor was a recent book club pick. I like memoirs, so I was excited to read this one, and I mostly enjoyed it. There were ways in which I identified with the author, and other ways I didn’t. I enjoyed some of her witticisms, but tired of some of her sarcasm. I liked her reflections, but was at times bored with her first-person narrative of events.
Recently laid off, Noelle Hancock takes a year to face her fears, inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” She tackles tiny fears and big ones, diving with sharks, silence, skydiving, flying, hiking Kilimanjaro, and more. Through the process she learns a lot about herself, her life, and the people around her.
As I read this book, I enjoyed learning some things I never knew about FDR and Eleanor, although there perhaps wasn’t quite as much historical context as I would have liked. I was inspired by Eleanor, and by Noelle’s own interpretation of her sayings. I wasn’t quite as inspired by Noelle’s life, although some of what she had to say certainly struck a chord and enticed me to examine my own life.
I think the scariest part of this book (no pun intended) was reading the following while sitting in front of a phone at telethon hoping against hope that my line wouldn’t ring…
I winced. I never liked calling strangers — a ridiculous admission for a former reporter, I know. Even as a kid, it had taken years before I could comfortably order a pizza. It got much better as I got older; then e-mail and testing arrived like manna from heaven for the telephone-challenged. In the last few years, especially, as my life shifted even more toward writing and the Internet, I’d regressed to being the child who wished I could ask a parent to call on my behalf.
I will admit that I skipped over two parts of this book and cannot comment on them: the portion on her stand-up comedy routine that I had been warned is raunchy and the section in which she shadows workers at a funeral home (a little too soon after losing Michael to read that).
Overall, while I mostly enjoyed the book, I don’t see myself re-reading it.