The Silver Linings Playbook, by Matthew Quick

When Pat’s mother signs him out of the mental institution after four years, it’s not because he’s recovered. Oh, no. It’s just that he’s a nice guy, and he’s really not making progress anymore. Yes, he committed a crime technically, but he needs to get back to a normal life.

Problem is, Pat thinks that he’s only been in the “bad place” for a few months, so he is shocked to find that his friends and relatives have married and had children since he went away. He struggles to reconcile this time warp with his only goal in life: to reconcile with his wife, Nikki. All of Pat’s thoughts and actions are targeted to this one result. Pat has lost fifty pounds and is exercising obsessively so that Nikki will take him back. He lifts weights, does hundreds of sit-ups, and runs fifteen miles a day. He drinks four gallons of water every day, one shot glass at a time. He reminds himself of all of the things he used to do that bothered Nikki and consciously tries to change them. Although Nikki had asked Pat for “apart time” after he went to the bad place, he is sure that apart time will soon be over, since he has worked so hard to become the perfect husband that she requires.

Pat grew up in a house ruled by Philadelphia Eagles football. Pat and his brother, Jake, played football in school, and their father was once thrown out of an Eagles game for assault. The dad is a bullying Neanderthal who refuses to speak to Pat when he first comes home, but his mother is eager to provide whatever he needs to recover. Pat has other great people on his side: his brother, Jake; his best friend, Ronnie; and his strange new therapist, Cliff. Ronnie and his wife introduce him to her sister, Tiffany, a beautiful young woman who is struggling with her own mental issues after her husband’s death. Can two deeply damaged people heal one another, or will they destroy one another’s minds?

My colleague, Tracy, came in one morning saying that she had seen the movie The Silver Linings Playbook and loved it, but that you have to read the book first. Of course, I immediately put it on hold, because I only had seventy-three other books on my nighttable, so I knew I could get to it in no time. I had read another book by Matthew Quick, a teen novel called Sorta Like a Rock Star, and I liked it very much. It’s one of the few young adult novels that portray religion in a positive light, and The Silver Linings Playbook also shows Pat’s Catholic faith as a given in his family. No doctrinal insights, just faith as a part of life. Pat is an extremely likable guy, although you may want to slap him around a bit for his refusal to face reality, but you can’t help being on his team as he works so hard to be perfect. Quick slowly reveals the reasons for Pat’s denial, including his mysterious hatred for Kenny G.

Recommended for adults who love an engaging, fast read and don’t mind the rough language. Quick is a writer with an appealing voice, and I hope to read more of his work in the future. My husband also liked this one, and I’d say it’s a book that men and women would both enjoy. I read this novel in one sitting and felt happy for hours afterward. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I will soon! Read the book first!

Note: I read a library copy of this book. My opinions are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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