Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Silver Linings Playbook ~ Matthew Quick

I saw The Silver Linings Playbook in theaters without any idea that it was based on a book.  It seemed fun and quirky and starred Jennifer Lawrence, which is always a plus.  Alas, I was disappointed.  The first half was promising but the second half just fell flat.  It seemed to have forgotten what the first half was about and the ending was totally unbelievable.  The turning point was the fight at the football game - from then on, the movie was just a mess and I still don't understand how it won all of those awards.  Needless to say, when I found out that the movie was based on a book, I was a bit wary.  Sure, film adaptations are notoriously underwhelming, but usually I go book to movie, not the reverse.  At best, I feared the book would be tainted by the movie; at worst, I feared that the movie was accurate.  Happily, I was wrong on both counts.

Because this book is fantastic.  Any regular readers of my book will know that I rarely love a book without reservation.  In fact, the only book that I loved thus that comes to mind is Bel Canto, which I read nearly a year ago.  But I have no complaints about The Silver Linings Playbook.  I wouldn't necessarily say that it's not flawed (though I found no flaws) but that it is the right book for me.  And that can be a very important thing for a reader, especially a relatively picky one.

Pat Peoples has just been released from "the bad place" (a mental hospital), pretty much on his mother's promise that he'll be good.  Pat is determined to become a new and better man, so that his estranged wife Nikki will come back to him and "apart time" can be over.  He works out for several hours a day, attempts to read Nikki's entire American Literature syllabus (WARNING: Pat spoils the endings of some books you may be intending to read*), makes efforts to "be kind not right," and avoids Kenny G. at all costs.  He's also writing a diary chronicling his daily life so that Nikki will know what he's been up to while they've been apart.  We soon learn that Pat is not the only person with issues - his father is angry and sullen, obsessed with the Eagles to the point of violence (I wondered many times if Pat truly loved the Eagles as well or just loved the peace that their winning brought the family), and does not speak to Pat for months after he returns home.  Pat meets a widowed woman named Tiffany who is also struggling with daily life and their interactions (silent though they often are) and efforts to form a friendship make up a large part of the plot.  Pat claims that he is living the movie of his life, though the form that the story takes is not particularly reminiscent of Hollywood (a template that the movie ignored).  Instead, it resembles real life, with ups and downs that don't always balance one another out.

One of the reasons that this novel resonated so strongly with me is due to my own brief experience working with people with severe mental illness.  Though all of these individuals are of course different, Pat reminded me of some that I knew, in his earnestness and honest desire to change, his difficulty with social interactions, and his sometimes difficulty in resisting some urges or overcoming some fears. Pat's struggles were so believable and they made me hurt for him.  On the other hand, his therapist very often made me angry, as he often had trouble distinguishing between football and therapy, a flaw that Pat also observes.  This was also somewhat true to my experiences, as the therapist is a psychiatrist, and let's just say that I haven't always been entirely pleased with the psychiatrists I've worked with.

Pat himself is also kind of an inspiration.  He spends the novel naively going on about silver linings and the need for positive thinking to the point that I kind of wanted to smack him (though I agree to a more limited degree) but over the course of the novel, he learns that happy endings aren't so straight forward.  Sometimes you need to change your perspective and realize that you can have your happy ending if only you could change your opinion on what that is and maybe just be happy with what you have.  It sounds cheesy, but this is done well in the book and honestly, I wonder how many more people would truly be happy if they could just appreciate what they have (Pat's father, for example, and me as well

I listened to this on audiobook over the course of three days, partially because it's only seven hours long and partially because it was just so hard to turn off.  The reader is perfect - while not the most amazing reader I've ever heard, his calm studied recitation and inflections perfectly matched the tone of the novel and how I would imagine Pat himself to sound.  While I usually wouldn't use an Audible credit on so short a book because of the reduced value (I actually got this during a BOGO sale), I would say that it's definitely worth it.

*According to a Goodreads review, the books at risk for spoilage are:
The Scarlet Letter
The Great Gastby
A Farewell to Arms
The Catcher in the Rye
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Bell Jar


  1. I'm intrigued by your review. LIke you, I saw the movie but didn't read the book, but the more book reviews I read of it, the more I thought it probably wasn't the book for me. Reading your review of the *audio* book, though, may change my mind. I'm always on the lookout for a good audio to listen to during my daily commute, so I will now try to track down a copy.

    1. It's but very short, which isn't generally my preference for audiobooks. But definitely check it out! I loved it.

  2. I was actually a bigger fan of the movie than the book, though I agree that the ending of the movie didn't really fit with the first half. But the first half won be over so I didn't mind the romantic comedy ending.

    Book Pat killed the book for me. I preferred movie Pat. I liked that Pat in the movie had a problem but didn't refer to the hospital he was at as "the bad place". He knew where he was, he didn't think a thief broke into his parent's house and just stole his wedding pictures.

    1. I thought that book Pat was more believable, and a more accurate representation of a person with mental illness severe enough to warrant hospitalization.

  3. Ahhh, I've been meaning to pick this one up! It's not a surprise that the book is better than the film. Just ONCE! Once, I'd like them to successfully adapt a book to film without seriously questioning choices on changes or being so jarred by a completely different tale.

  4. I haven't seen the movie but I'm glad to hear the book was good. I will admit that i didn't know it was a book either. I'm attracted to the movie for Bradley Cooper, but i think i will read the book and imagine him instead.