He applied the Page 69 Test to Eleanor and reported the following:
From page 69:Visit Jason Gurley's website.Eleanor shakes her head, and thought she doesn’t want to cry in front of Jack, his simple question flushes her skin with warmth, and she remembers distantly what it’s like for someone to care what she is thinking, how she is feeling. This notion lodges itself in her throat, and she suddenly finds it difficult to breathe. She puts one hand to her chest and opens her mouth, and an embarrassing honking sound comes out.This is such an interesting test of a book, and yet one I can certainly connect with. I skim books a bit myself before I bring them home.
“Hey, hey,” Jack says, putting his arm around her. “Hey, now.”
She honks and gasps in big lungfuls of air, which only make her chest hitch more, and when she finally is able to let the air back out, she sobs on his shoulder.
She doesn’t see the photos still in the wastebasket—more crushed pictures of her sister, among them a photograph of the two girls together, torn in half, Eleanor’s side of the photo ripped into even smaller bits.
Eleanor lets Jack hold her for a moment, and then, certain that she has humiliated herself enough, she presses the heels of her palms into her eyes, roughly brushing away the tears, and she says, “This stuff isn’t trash. I’ll save it all later. We’re late.”
Jack regards her curiously. “Maybe you should play hooky today,” he says.
Eleanor shakes her head firmly. “I want to go now. Please.”
He gets to his feet, then offers her his hand, and she can feel the wiry cords of his muscles as he draws her up from the floor. She gives him a sheepish grin and wipes more of the tears from her face and says, “I still have to get the kitchen trash.”
“I already got it all,” he says. “Your, uh—your mother…”
Eleanor looks up at him and waits. “My mother what?”
Jack averts his eyes. “Those bottles…that’s from, like, a month, right?”
“No,” Eleanor says, squeezing past him. “That’s from this week.”
He follows, still keeping his voice low. “It’s so much.”
“She shouldn’t drink so much.”
“Seriously! Where does she even get—“
Page 69 of Eleanor is a surprising microcosm of the book’s larger themes and story. In it, teenage Eleanor and her only friend, Jack, are taking the trash out of her house. Eleanor discovers some shredded memories in one bin; Jack finds many empty liquor bottles. Both point to Eleanor’s mother, Agnes, who in her grief, has descended into a whiskey-soaked stupor. It’s a perfect encapsulation of the modern purgatory that Eleanor lives within, a fitting example of the aftermath of the tragedy she hopes to one day set right.