The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I picked this book up on the recommendation of a friend, and because I wanted to see the movie. I'm glad I read the book first; the movie spoils several major plot points as if they're throwaway, and changes a lot of the focus of the narrative.
The book starts with Pat Peoples leaving the mental hospital that's been his home for what he thinks is months. He only calls it "the bad place," and later hints within the narrative indicate it's for treating people with major head injuries, rather than just mental illness. Pat, himself, has a four-year blank in his memory, and can't remember what he did to get himself locked away.
Pat's father is quite distant, except where it relates to the Philadelphia Eagles, his favorite football team. Pat bonds with his father and older brother, Jake, over the games, while going to therapy. He meets a troubled young woman named Tiffany, who lost her husband and has been struggling with her own issues since. Tiffany offers to speak to Pat's wife, Nikki, on his behalf, but only if he'll help her win a dance competition.
The book is framed as Pat's journal, with some letters from Tiffany and Nikki. Pat's style is stilted, repetitive, and makes him sound like he lost some IQ points with his head injury. It's clear Matthew Quick can write in a more flowing style, because Tiffany and Nikki's letters are much more readable.
While I enjoyed the characterizations, especially of the laconic Tiffany and Pat's mother, I found them a bit rigidly stereotyped. There isn't a single woman in the narrative who likes football or cares about it, beyond the fact that the men they care about like it. There's only one male character indifferent to it, and Pat reminds us repeatedly that Danny is his black friend. Danny was a rapper, and wound up in the same place as Pat thanks to a turf battle that almost killed him.
The strongest parts in the book, I felt, were during Pat's therapy sessions with Dr. Cliff Patel, who asks Pat to call him Cliff. (He winds up as "Dr. Cliff" throughout most of the narrative.) He's insightful, and provides most of the reflection and information Pat needs.
The movie and the book end fairly similarly, though they get there in entirely different ways. Book-Pat is not nearly as smart as the version played by Bradley Cooper in the movie, and he needs quite a bit of prodding to come to the same conclusions.
I listened to this book on audio, narrated by Ray Porter. The narration made Pat sound a bit slow, though I think that was supported by the text. It was clear and easy to understand, and I didn't have to adjust the volume when characters whispered or shouted.
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