Title: The Silver Linings Playbook
Author: Matthew Quick
Genre: Adult, Fiction, Contemporary
Do you believe in happy endings? This question lies at the core of Matthew Quick’s witty, fast-paced and heartwarming debut novel The Silver Linings Playbook. I’m sure many of you are familiar with this story thanks to the hit 2012 film of the same name starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. While the film adaption is somewhat faithful to the source material, nothing compares to actually being inside the head of Pat Peoples. That’s the magic of the novel form. It allows us access to the parts of other people we desire most to see–their thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears and dreams. Though an adult novel with some weighty themes, The Silver Linings Playbook never manages to feel preachy. It’s fun and fresh and sentimental in the best sense.
The novel follows Pat Peoples, a former history teacher and life-long Eagles fan, as he is released from a mental institution in Baltimore, Maryland after four years of confinement. Pat is optimistic. He believes that by improving both the physical and mental aspects of himself that he can win back the love of his estranged, yet beloved wife Nikki. So when Pat returns home, he sets out on a quest to meet Nikki again. How will he do that you may ask? Despite not remembering how much time passed since he and Nikki began “apart time,” Pat is convinced that if he stays positive, his personal movie will have a happy ending.
And he’s right…just not in the way he expects. Throughout the novel, Pat consistently sees his life as a movie. There is even a section where he is training for a competition in a Rocky-esque montage. In the best kind of movies–and novels for that matter–the protagonist never gets what he or she wants, but rather what they need. In Harry Potter, Harry cannot bring his parents back after defeating Voldemort. What he gets instead are lifelong friends and the chance to have his own family. Rey wants to stay on Jakku in Star Wars: The Force Awakens in order to reconnect with her family, but what she needs is to leave the planet and discover her destiny. In perhaps the most famous literary example of want vs. need, Scarlett O’Hara, Gone With the Wind’s feisty heroine, wants Ashley Wilkes but she needs Rhett Butler. Pat wants Nikki. He wants to return to his old life. He wants to be a better husband. However, what he needs is Tiffany. Tiffany, a widowed woman with her own set of issues, is the foil to Pat. She sees the world in a more realistic light. They balance each other out. Tiffany understands what is going on in Pat’s mind in a way that Nikki never could. This point in driven home at the end of the novel when Pat confesses to Tiffany that he “needs” her.
What makes this novel so much fun to read are the subplots. I really felt like I was reading about a real family. There is no such thing as perfect even if Pat wants to believe that. Families have their problems. Families don’t always function properly. The important thing is that they are there for you when you need them the most. Nothing is completely fixed at the end of the novel. Pat and Tiffany still have their issues, Pat’s father is still a grump and Nikki never apologizes for her behavior, yet I couldn’t help but smile. Just seeing that Pat was in a better place was satisfying enough.
Readers expecting a carbon copy of the 2012 film will be disappointed. Though the film follows the first half of the book quite well, it fears off in the Second Act, turning the story into a romantic comedy. I enjoy both versions of the story and think they work quite well for their respective mediums.
The only thing preventing this novel from being a 5 is the father. I know that I said before that it’s okay that not everything gets wrapped up and while that’s true, I would have liked to see a little more resolution with the father. Also, the book treats Tiffany’s deception more realistically than the film does, making Tiffany seem like a manipulative person. While I understand what she did, her actions could of had some terrible consequences.
If you are in the mood for a book that deals with mental illness in a fun and optimistic way, or if you are just looking for a well written story, picking up The Silver Linings Playbook.