Becky’s One Hundred and Fifty-Seventh Book Review: “The Silver Linings Playbook” by Matthew Quick

“The Silver Linings Playbook” by Matthew Quick was another instance where I found out after seeing the movie that it was based on a book. Since I enjoyed the movie so much, I thought that I would most likely enjoy the book even more. My instincts were correct; I did enjoy the book more although the movie was really well done.

I think part of what I really enjoyed about “The Silver Linings Playbook” was how real the main character, Pat, was. The book begins with him just getting out of a mental institution. He has no idea how long he has been away and is obsessed with making things right with Nikki, his wife. He is working on being kind rather than right. His re-entry into the world outside of the institution is pretty fascinating to read about. The way that he tries to cope with things and work out situations is very well captured. “I’m so confused that I’m speaking and thinking and worrying all at the same time, not really knowing what to do or say.” (The Silver Linings Playbook, pg 51). There is a focus on his mental illness in the book but at the same time, a lot of what he says is more honest and even healthier than those that are considered ‘normal’.

There is one part in the book when Pat is having dinner with his friends Ronnie and Veronica and Veronica’s sister Tiffany. Ronnie pulls Pat aside and warns him about Tiffany. I really enjoyed Pat’s reaction to this. “…but he never once tells me what Tiffany thinks or what is going on in her heart: the awful feelings, the conflicting impulses, the needs, the desperation, everything that makes her different from Ronnie and Veronica, who have each other and their daughter, Emily, and a good income and a house and everything else that keeps people from calling them “odd”. What amazes me is that Ronnie is telling me all this in a friendly manner, as if he is trying to save me from Tiffany’s ways, as if he knows more about these sorts of things than I do, as if I had not spent the last few months in a mental institution. He does not understand Tiffany, and he sure as hell doesn’t understand me, but I do not hold it against Ronnie, because I am practicing being kind rather than right, so Nikki will be able to love me again when apart time is over.” (The Silver Linings Playbook, pg 79).

I also really enjoyed the way that Pat talks about Tiffany. Their connection and relationship is so different from most that you can’t help but find yourself cheering for them. They both are so messed up that they are a really good fit, because they can understand the difficulties that they each are having. “She looks sad. She looks angry. She looks different from everyone else I know – she cannot put on that happy face others wear when they know they are being watched. She doesn’t put on a face for me, which makes me trust her somehow.” (The Silver Linings Playbook, pg 116). Pat finds it easier to open up to Tiffany because she doesn’t put on an act. She’s frank and he finds that refreshing and necessary for him to trust her. I really enjoyed the complex relationship between Tiffany and Pat.

I think that Matthew Quick does a great job of illustrating just how much can change in the world when you step out of it for a while, as Pat does. He is in the mental institution for several years and when he comes out he has no idea that it had been that long. He believes that he was away for a few months. When he finally does realize how long he was away and how much he missed, he can’t comprehend or handle it. There are many things that cause him to lose it after he gets out. His ups and downs are all over the place. His insanity is harsh and comes out at the slightest provocation. The way that he experiences life after the institution is raw. Reading about his breakdowns and more importantly his ability to pick himself up made this book such a good read.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I really enjoyed this book. It is a good way for people to glimpse into the world of mental illness. This book has the ability to help people understand more fully just how challenging things can be for those with mental illnesses. Not to mention that it is just entertaining. I really enjoyed this book and cannot wait to work my way though the rest of Matthew Quick’s novels.

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