Recently, I have rediscovered the bountiful joys of going to the library. My own personal library continues to grow, but I think all readers have a mental hierarchy that they immediately sort potential books into. When I hear or read about a new book recommendation, my brain attempts to categorize it as buy-able, downloadable, or borrow-able. Instead of taking a purchasing plunge here lately, I have been pulling books from the Orange County library.
One of my recent finds was The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. Now, I haven’t seen the movie yet, though I hear it’s amazing. But I’m quite happy to have read the book first. Sometimes I’m incapable of separating books from their movies to the point where one of them ends up disappointing me, and it’s usually the movie that lets me down. When I do get around to seeing David O. Russell’s film, I hope it’s up to par because I could really see Quick’s writing translating well to the big screen.
Anywho, on to my review…
I devoured this book. The chapters are brief, with quirky titles, and an engaging first person perspective. One of the first things that struck me about this novel was that it could be a modern companion piece to Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. The key differences would be the male perspective and the more hopeful attitude of The Silver Linings Playbook. But both stories deal with individuals who slide into mental unrest and are trying to recover the best way they know how.
Yet Pat Peeples in undeniably himself and no other. Pat has recently been checked out of the Bad Place a.k.a. a mental health facility in order to live with his parents. While he has been away, the world has moved on without Pat: his brother is married, the Eagles have a new stadium, and his father cannot look him in the eye. What keeps Pat afloat is his determined optimism and his conviction that he will reunite with his estranged wife, Nikki. Pat centers his life around obsessively bettering himself for his wife by exercising, reading classic literature (including The Bell Jar, which he hates), and attending mandatory therapy sessions. When friends introduce Pat to depressed widow, Tiffany, Pat has to face a new set of challenges that he may not be ready to accept.
There is something childlike about Pat that allows the reader to be compassionate instead of judgmental. Quick writes with humor and transparency, so that even when Pat does something not quite “right” you can empathize with his choices. Watching him stumble through his emotional journey is at times hard to read because of that empathy, but it makes every little success all the more powerful.
One of my favorite parts of The Silver Linings Playbook was Pat’s reading of certain classics. It was amusing and poignant how Pat boiled down the plots of books we have to read in high school and college. He asks the question every single human being has asked: why do we have to read such depressing books?!? Pat’s ability to read his own situation into well-known novels is also something most readers have done, and it made it that much easier to connect with Pat.
The Silver Linings Playbook is Matthew Quick’s first novel. Quick has been quite prolific since the 2008 publication of this novel, and it seems as if he primarily deals with stories of eternal optimism and mental health. While I haven’t read these books myself, based on the descriptions alone I will not be seeking any of them out. Quick handles the subject matter well, but I’m not sure I want to read multiple versions of the same type of story.
I would highly recommend The Silver Linings Playbook though. It would be an ideal beach read for this summer and it’s a great library read: not one to own but definitely one to check out!