Thursday, September 17, 2009

Review: Eleanor Rushing by Patty Friedmann

As book blog readers, we have come to accept that discovering new authors and books are givens. We come across a review that catches our eye, and we can't wait to add that book to our wish lists or TBR piles. Those of you who know me, know I have more than just a TBR pile. Rather, I have a TBR room. My wish list is quite long too--mostly filled with books recommended by my fellow book bloggers.

In preparation for today's Book Blogger Appreciation Week topic, which is to highlight a book I first discovered on a blog and the blogger who introduced me to that book, I pored over several of my options, finally settling on one in particular.

If you haven't noticed already, book bloggers are a generous bunch. Just take a look at the number of BBAW giveaways, many at the expense of the individual bloggers themselves. Occasionally you may come across a blogger who offers a reader a book out of the blue. You read a review, comment that you are interested in reading that book and suddenly it's in the mail to you. I have been lucky to be on the receiving end of a handful of books like this over the past three years from various bloggers. Florinda from The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness is one such blogger. It isn't something every blogger is able to do, especially not often, and so when a blogger does, it makes it extra special.

I had the opportunity to meet Florinda this past spring and she is just as wonderful in person as she is on her blog. She's intelligent and witty, not to mention a great writer. She touches on a variety of subjects on her blog, books included. I have found a kindred spirit in Florinda and am glad to call her my friend.

I think it is impossible to change the world unless you are truly evil and so mad for control you never sleep.
[First Sentence]

Eleanor Rushing by Patty Friedmann
Counterpoint, 2000
Fiction; 275 pgs

I had never heard of Patty Friedmann or her novel Eleanor Rushing before reading Florinda's review of the book, but she certainly piqued my interest. Florinda didn't exactly love the book, but her description of the main character as an unreliable narrator who is both frustrating and fascinating, made me curious. I said as much in my comment to her review, never expecting her to offer me her copy of the book, which I accepted (thanks, Florinda!).

Eleanor Rushing is a novel about a woman who sets her sights on a married pastor after meeting him in a council meeting. She is sure he loves her and goes to great lengths to learn about him and to draw him closer, including staging a car accident right outside his home, following him to Nashville, and insinuating herself into his life in just about any way she can think of.

Eleanor has a troubled past. Her parents died in an accident when she was ten, and she is haunted by memories of being molested as a child. Nearly thirty years old, Eleanor is wealthy and lives with her grandfather and housekeeper in New Orleans. She has never worked a day in her life.

Friedmann's novel is related in first person from Eleanor's perspective. From the first paragraph of the novel it is clear that her impressions of what is going on around her--or what has happened in the past--is not to be completely trusted. Rather, it is more in the other characters throughout the novel that the reader gets a more accurate picture of what is really going on. Eleanor is every bit the unreliable narrator. It makes the story all the more intriguing.

As I read Eleanor Rushing, I could not help but think of The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall which I read in June of last year. Like Eleanor, Eric Sanderson appears to be suffering from some sort of psychosis. The difference between the two books, however, is significant. In Hall's novel, the reader is left guessing. Is what is happening to Eric real or is it mental illness? I instantly connected with Eric; he was easy to relate to and sympathetic. He was likable.

Eleanor is not so easy to like. In fact, I cannot really say I ever grew to like her at all. I felt sorry for her, if anything. Yet even that was hard at times. She is extremely self-absorbed, not to mention does not believe she can do any wrong. It does not take long for the reader to realize Eleanor has mental health issues, that she is perhaps even delusional. Whereas I felt like I was a part of Eric's story, I felt more like an observer in Eleanor's. I looked on with horror at her gall and amazement at her tenacity. Eleanor has a distinct voice, a bit of wry humor with an underlying sadness.

Eleanor Rushing makes for a fascinating character study, perhaps more so because of my background in psychology and my never ending curiosity about what makes people tick. I read this book in two sittings because I hard a hard time pulling myself away. Patty Friedmann certainly has written an interesting novel about a character I won't soon forget.

Rating: * (Good +)

Challenge Commitment Fulfilled: New Authors Challenge

Drop by the Patty Friedmann's website for more information about her and her books!

© 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. Have I told you yet that I love your new look? No wonder why the description of the book pulled you in. I love unreliable narrators, and this one sounds like a doozy! Serious issues, this one has! I'm all over it!

  2. Your lovely review has piqued my curiosity and now I've to look out for this book! Thanks, Wendy! Thanks, Florinda! :D

  3. This one sounds so interesting, maybe even like a Lifetime movie that I would love to watch? I will be on the lookout for this one! Great review Wendy... keep them coming!

  4. This sounds really good. I don't mind reading about characters that I don't like but there's gotta be something there to draw me in and this Eleanor character sounds intriguing. Yep, going on the list!

  5. I am reading her book Secondhand Smoke right now. It is totally different than Eleanor Rushing. It's southern fiction and pretty funny!

  6. I'm so glad you chose this book for your BBAW post today, and I'm glad to read your thoughts on it - it seems like your response is similar to what mine was.

    I think this book has become my standard for assessing unreliable narrators - Eleanor is definitely one of the more interesting ones I've encountered.

    And thanks for all the other nice stuff you said, Wendy *blushing*. Back at you :-).

    Note to Missy: I'm impressed that someone else has even heard of Patty Friedmann. This novel has some classic Southern-gothic elements too.

  7. I've never had the pleasure of meeting Florinda, but I sure do love her blog!

  8. I like how you combined the review into today's topic. I've never heard of this one either...and I'd never heard the term "unreliable narrator" until a few weeks ago, even though I've certainly read about them. I love how I keep learning from other bloggers.

  9. This is a thoughtful post, Wendy, and as softdrink has said, I like how you combined the review with the topic. Great stuff!

  10. Well I don't have a TBR room but I do have a TBR bookshelf that is floor to ceiling crammed with books on every available inch...

    I believe Eleanor would really irritate me so I'll give this one a pass.

  11. Great review, Wendy. I always look forward to read your reviews because you always brought up a great points to the review. Maybe I get copy of the book :) By the way, love your new blog look :)

  12. It's not often you come across a main character who is not very likeable. This does sound intriguing!

  13. Sandy - Thank you, Sandy. I really like the new look too. :-)

    Yes, Eleanor is definitely one interesting character. I hope you will get the chance to read it.

    Melody - It's definitely different, Melody. If you do read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

    Kristie - I could see it as a Lifetime movie. :-) Thank you.

    Iliana - I don't mind so much either if I don't like a main character. And Eleanor was so interesting that I just had to see what she'd do next.

    Missy - I'll have to look for Secondhand Smoke, Missy. Thanks for the heads up!

    Florinda - Thank you very much for sharing the book with me. Reading over your review again after I'd written mine, I noticed just how much our opinions of the book did line up. It may not be a book either one of us particularly loved, but we won't forget Eleanor soon, will we?

  14. Kathy - I hope you will get to meet Florinda one day. She's great.

    Jill (Softdrink) - Thanks! You should have seen me scurrying to read this book in time. I wanted to post a book review during BBAW week and thought this would be a good way to go about it.

    Alice - Thank you, Alice!

    Jen - That's one full bookshelf! Sounds like you have a lot of reading to do too. :-)

    I don't think Eleanor Rushing would appeal to everyone. It's one of those books I think a person needs to be in the mood for.

    Julia - Thank you so much, Julia! I hope you do get a chance to read this one.

    Regina - I guess you could say she's an anti-hero. :-) She's definitely interesting.


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