Title: The Silver Linings Playbook
Author: Matthew Quick
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Genre: Humorous Fiction
What is it about? If you’ve seen David O. Russell’s film adaptation of the novel, then you’re pretty familiar with the plot. The film very closely follows the novel’s story line: Pat Peoples is a former history teacher who is separated from his wife, Nikki, following a violent incident. Following the separation, he is hospitalized at a mental institution for a time before moving back into his parents’ house. Once home, he focuses all his energy on getting his wife back and ending “apart time” by working out, reading classic novels (his wife was and English teacher), and focusing on the “silver lining” of his life/movie. His memory is clouded during this time and he doesn’t remember what he did to cause a rupture in his marriage or quite how long it has been since “apart time” began. While on his mission to reunite with Nikki, Pat undergoes therapy, explores his challenging relationship with his dad, goes to a few football games, and meets Tiffany. Tiffany has also moved back into her parents house following the death of her husband. The two, bonding over their emotional/mental struggles, develop an unconventional friendship that is humorous, heartening, heartbreaking, and riveting to watch unfold. And also, they dance.
What did I like? The narration style of Pat’s character is so easy to latch onto. The way his character speaks to the reader is very conversational, but also not very guarded. I felt that he was one of the most genuine first-person narrators I’ve ever had contact with. Reading through his eyes allowed me a level of understanding of his position and experiences even–and especially–when I wouldn’t have externally understood his choices. I also love the realism/messiness of this story. I have never been one to like forced/expected/unreasonable happy endings, and I think this book manages to avoid that (which is a little ironic considering the title). Overall, I found the novel–and Pat!–extremely relate-able even though I’m a 25-year-old domestic goddess reading through the eyes of a male, football fan.
What didn’t I like? I honestly don’t have many complaints about the novel. Some picky complaints are: 1) I wish the relationship with Pat and his dad had been explored/explained further, yet the open-ended treatment of it did seem more realistic in many ways, and 2) I wish Tiffany’s background had been explored a little more (I prefer her portrayal in the movie–and it isn’t just a J. Law thing!)
Who should read it? If you’ve seen the movie and have not read the book, I would definitely recommend it. The two are similar, but very different in a few key ways. The narration of the story in the novel makes the plot all the more effective. In addition, I think this novel does a great job of portraying mental illness, depression, and emotional problems realistically without glossing over the nasty details. This is an issue many can relate to–whether personally (as I do) or through the experiences of loved one (as I also do). I think it’s a great read for anyone looking to connect carthartically with some serious, yet humorous, treatment of some real-world personal issues.
Final Rating: I can say that I enjoy this book equally to and separately from its movie adaption, and that isn’t a frequent happening. I laughed, I cried, I cried, I laughed, I would read it again in a heartbeat. 9/10