Friday, March 01, 2013

Of perseverance and hope ...

book review

Book: The Silver Linings Playbook
Author: Matthew Quick

Film adaptations of novels sometimes bring the books to a wider audience and generate renewed interest in the tomes. That phenomenon has recently been experienced by The Silver Linings Playbook, author Matthew Quick’s 2008 debut novel that was recently transformed into an Oscar nominated Hollywood movie.

We meet the protagonist, Pat Peoples, as he goes back to his parents’ home after spending many years in a mental health facility. Obsessed with physical fitness and working out, and (like his father and brother) fanatically devoted to the Eagles, the former history teacher is on a quest to find his happy ending, looking for the end of “apart time” when he can finally be reunited with his estranged wife Nikki and find his happily ever after. But things aren’t going quite as he would have hoped. He doesn’t have any recollection of the last few years, his beloved Nikki has a restraining order against him, his relationship with his father is strained, his parents are going through a rough patch, and a weird girl named Tiffany appears to be pursuing him. Oh, and he is being haunted by a Kenny G song that instantly sends him into a wild rage!

Ok, so Pat might have a few issues, but he isn’t willing to let any of them defeat him, and that is what sets him apart from the other characters in this, and many other, books. And his quest for self improvement may be compulsive, but at the heart of it all, there is a strangely engaging quality to him, and his blind refusal to give up hope is inspiring. As he practices “being kind instead of right”, it’s hard to ignore that this is something that many – or perhaps even all – of us should aspire for.

The Silver Linings Playbook is adequately written, and while the prose might not necessarily bowl you over, the book succeeds by being disarmingly honest; it’s heart-warming and seems heartfelt, and its offbeat characters and message of perseverance keep you engrossed in the proceedings and rooting for the characters. Plus, it’s a short read; Matthew Quick keeps the narrative moving along swiftly and you don’t have to wait too long to find out how things turn out for Pat and the people in his life.

But be warned: as Pat expresses his dismay over the despair in literature (he has decided to read all the novels that are on Nikki’s American literature class syllabus, “just to make her proud”), the book contains some major spoilers of classics including The Scarlet Letter, The Bell Jar, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and a few others. So if you have yet to read these books and are likely to be put off by the spoilers, then you might want to move Playbook to the end of your reading list and get to it when you’re done catching up on your classics.

Overall, The Silver Linings Playbook is a heart-warming story of perseverance that encourages us to be kind and have hope. And it would be hard to argue that there can ever be an excess of hope and kindness in the world.

- S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 1st March, 2013

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