Wednesday, November 21, 2012
The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
I picked up The Silver Linings Playbook because (1) there is a moving version of the book coming out (or maybe it is out now) staring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, two actors whose work I enjoy and (2) someone on Goodreads described it as "the adult Perks of Being a Wallflower," a book that I love. The story begins with Pat's mother picking him up for the neural mental health facility where's he been staying for awhile. Pat thinks he was in the "bad place" for about year when actually much more time has passed and a lot has happened while Pat was his way. When he comes out of the facility, he is surprisingly upbeat. That's because Pat believes in silver linings and happy endings and that if he works hard to improve himself then "apart time" with his estranged wife will end and they will be reunited and live happily ever after. He fully commits to achieving his goal, working out for hours at a time and practising being kind rather than being right.
One of things I liked about this story is that it doesn't take place in a vacuum. After leaving the institution Pat moves in with his parents where he gets a front row seat to his parents crumbling marriage. He has to deal with a father who barely talks to him. His friends and his brother have all progressed in their lives, causing Pat to wonder about all the things he missed while institutionalized. And then there's Tiffany, Pat's best friend's sister-in-law. Tiffany has some mental issues of her own to deal with. Perhaps more than anyone she understands what it is to lose one's mind.
Another interesting aspect of the story is how it uses physicality and movement to represent emotion, healing, and a person's mental status. For instance, in effort to make himself more attractive to his estranged wife Pat works out for several hours a day, running ten miles at a time and doing so many sit ups my abs hurt reading about it. In other areas of his life he struggles, but the exercise routine seems to be the one thing he can control so he clings to it. Tiffany, a modern dancer, choreographs a dance routine to demonstrate how she has danced away her depression. (I'm really looking forward to seeing this dance routine in the movie, in the book it sounded awesome!)
Pat not only tries to improve himself physically. In his attempt to become a better person he also decides to read some of the classics his estranged wife, an English teacher, always talked about. Pat's reactions to books like Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye are priceless. Let's just say he is appalled at the many unhappy endings he comes across.
While I'm not sure I would call this the adults Perks I did very much enjoy this book. It isn't a happy book, being that it deals with depression, fragile mental health and other serious issues, but it is funny in that way that real life can be funny and tragic at the same time. Pat is sincere, though not always a reliable narrator. I couldn't help but root for him. I hope the movie does a good job bringing this story to the screen.