Saturday, October 15, 2011

Book Review: My Year With Eleanor

I picked up My Year With Eleanor at a Borders Going Out of Business sale.  90% off!  Yes, at 90% I cleared out most of what was left in the Memoir/Biography section as well.  At that kind of discount, I wasn't being very choosy.  (Killing Willis also landed in my book bag.  Yes, that Willis.)  After reading the premise, I wasn't sure if this was some kind of self-help book in memoir's clothing... but, c'mon!  It was $2.49!

I actually recalled reading reviews on this one, citing that Noelle Hancock (never heard of her) charmingly wrote this account after spotting a random Eleanor Roosevelt quote on a coffee house's chalkboard and documenting the life-changing endeavors that followed.

"Do one thing every day that scares you"

Having just lost her job as a tabloid Internet blogger, Noelle took this challenge quite literally.  She decided to do at least one thing every day for the year leading up to her thirtieth birthday that scared the bejeezers out of her Ivy League-educated turned gossip-for-hire pants.

I, having a mild case of scaredy-pants myself, actually found myself getting nervous on her behalf during some of her more adventurous chapters.  Ms. Hancock has an amusing writing style and definitely does not take herself too seriously, and those are the perfect ingredients for the most fun type of memoirs to read.

Her daily challenges ranged from talking to strangers, to singing karaoke, to a performing a set of stand-up comedy (a dirty filthy set... be forewarned!), to visiting ex-boyfriends, to swimming with sharks, to her standby of running down the apartment hallway naked (if the day's end neared and she realized that she hadn't scared herself yet.)  She conquers her fear of heights, not by simply riding in tall elevators (thank goodness, for the interest of her reading audience) but by taking trapeze lessons, flying a fighter jet and skydiving.

She's careful not to venture into that dreaded self-help territory, but just tells her own story of self-help.  Realizing she was once dare-devilish and fun-loving and noticing that self begin to stifle in the over-achieving-peered Ivy League years, she just longs to find the steps to unburying her old self.  She includes amusing visits with her therapist (therapy = amusing, who knew!), hilarious friends who tagged along on some of her feats, a will-he or won't-he boyfriend (who sounds pretty hot) and her family members who helped her reach the ultimate task of  **SPOILER ALERT** a little mountain that starts with a "K", ends with an "ilimanjaro".

Glancing at her skinny-perky-blonde author's photo in the jacket sleeve might cause one to think, "Oh, this is going to be an airhead's tale."  But, don't judge this book by its cover.  Blonde and pert as she may be, Noelle Hancock is a talented writer and her story is sharp and witty fun.  I graduated from having sweaty palms in anticipation for her early challenges to actually cheering her on and finding impossible to wait to see what came next.  It's a fun ride with little bit of Eleanor Roosevelt history sneakily planted between pages.  You'll feel a little braver by the end and may actually come up with a few new bullet-points for your own bucket list.

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