A heartwarming debut novel, soon to be a major movie by David O. Russell.
“Aawww shucks!” NPR’s Nancy Pearl said. “I know that’s hardly a usual way to begin a book review, but it was my immediate response to finishing Matthew Quick’s heartwarming, humorous and soul-satisfying first novel . . . This book makes me smile.”
Meet Pat Peoples. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure him a happy ending—the return of his estranged wife, Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent several years in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat’s now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he’s being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he’s being haunted by Kenny G!
David O. Russell, the Oscar-nominated director of The Fighter, is helming his own adaptation of The Silver Linings Playbook. Due in theaters this Thanksgiving, the movie features Bradley Cooper (Peoplemagazine’s Sexiest Man Alive) in the role of Pat, alongside Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Julia Stiles, Chris Tucker, and Jacki Weaver. As the award-winning novelist Justin Cronin put it: “Tender, soulful, hilarious, and true, The Silver Linings Playbook is a wonderful debut.”
Like I said, the movie looked really funny and cute and the book is well… it’s not really funny or cute. At all. It’s sad and depressing and kind of twisted. Pat’s thirty-five year old mind has been reverted to a really immature teenager’s mind due to a traumatic experience. And no one in the book – not even his psychiatrist – really says he is acting that naive, but really. I mean, he actually refers to things as “apart time” and thinks his life is a movie. It’s really sad. And it’s painfully obvious to the reader that he is just so wrong about everything, but you just have to ride it out with him.
I did end up rating this book higher than I thought I would, due to the somewhat satisfying ending (albeit a bit rushed), but mostly didn’t enjoy it because I thought I would be getting something other than what I got. If you go into this book expecting a quirky, funny, light read, I think you’ll be disappointed like I was. It is quirky, kind of, but not very funny, in my opinion. I mean, I laughed a few times, but mostly this book tackles the seriousness of mental illness, and the things people do when they are learning to cope with it. And Pat copes with it by working out (way too much I think – he is quite obsessive about it) and watching football. I mean, really. If you’re like Tiffany and you hate football, you probably don’t want to read this book.
I did enjoy Pat and some of the relationships in this book – especially his mother and his brother, Jake – but the love story was kind of botched for me. I didn’t agree with the way the author pushed the romance on these characters. I think the interpretation that fucked up people can only be with fucked up people (and I’m not saying the mentally ill are “fucked up”, but “fucked up” is exactly how Pat and Tiffany are portrayed and treated) is bullshit. I didn’t necessarily have a problem with Pat and Tiffany as the people that they were (except for Tiffany’s grave mistakes), but I think that two people should be together because they want to, not because they should or because they are settling for one another. And that’s kind of what it seemed like to me. Maybe I’m being naive myself or maybe I’m just super lucky to have found someone I truly love, but the whole thing just seemed forced.
I “liked it” (Goodreads rating) because of the characters. I wasn’t necessarily a fan of Pat and Tiffany’s relationship or the football or the working out or even the somewhat strange dancing competition, but I really liked Pat and his mom and Jake and Dr. Patel. I thought they were all great people that I could really connect with.
Unfortunately, this novel spoils several books that I wanted to read, including The Bell Jar and Catcher in the Rye. In his story, Pat actually reads these books and tells us the ending of every one (there is like five books total). So, if you want to avoid a serious spoiler alert for a bunch of classics, you probably want to be careful with this one.