THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is the riotous and poignant story of how one man regains his memory and comes to terms with the magnitude of his wife’s betrayal.
During the years he spends in a neural health facility, Pat Peoples formulates a theory about silver linings: he believes his life is a movie produced by God, his mission is to become physically fit and emotionally supportive, and his happy ending will be the return of his estranged wife Nikki. When Pat goes to live with his parents everything seems changed; no one will talk to him about Nikki; his old friends are saddled with families; the Philadelphia Eagles keep losing, making his father moody; and his new therapist seems to be recommending adultery as a form of therapy.
When Pat meets the tragically widowed, physically fit, and clinically depressed Tiffany, she offers to act as a liaison between him and his wife, if only he will give up watching football, agree to perform in this year’s Dance Away Depression competition, and promise not to tell anyone about their ‘contract.’ All the while, Pat keeps searching for his silver lining.
In this brilliantly written debut novel, Matthew Quick takes us inside Pat’s mind, deftly showing us the world from his distorted yet endearing perspective. The result is a touching and funny story that helps us look at both depression and love in a wonderfully refreshing way. (source)
I was so excited when my book club added this to our summer reading list. I watched the movie and really enjoyed it - with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper as the stars, how could I not? - and I was eager to read the book because of that. As great as the movie was, I enjoyed the book even more and, as always, I'm really glad that my book club gave me the motivation to pick this up. Just a heads up for those reading this review - I'm going to be making a lot of comparisons to the movie; I don't really know how to write about my reactions to the novel without doing that. If you haven't seen the movie or read the book, hopefully this won't get too spoilery, but I'm going to tag this with a spoiler alert for the whole entry just to be on the safe side!
In my opinion, Matthew Quick did a really great job showing how hard it is to transition back into conventional society after being in a mental facility. I want to emphasize that I have absolutely no personal experience with this, so people who have might disagree with me. But, as a general reader, I felt that Quick portrayed this struggle very well. I hadn't realized how completely and totally patients at these facilities are cut off from the rest of society. The movie didn't really get into this (if it did, it was touched so briefly that I have no memory of it), but in the book, Quick makes a really big deal out of how long Pat was actually in the facility - especially since Pat himself didn't even realize how much time had passed. Honestly, this was mind-blowing. I don't know how frequently this sort of thing happens in real life, but I found myself wondering if this is really such a great treatment strategy, if it does happen in real life. I get that doctors want their patients to completely focus on healing and avoid any potential triggers, but I think that this total disconnect caused some really huge problems when Pat returned to his "normal" life. I wonder if these problems were worth the integrity of the treatment, in the end.
I really liked seeing Pat and Tiffany's relationship progress. Quick draws things out much more than the movie does and the sequence of events actually differs between the book and the movie. I think I liked the book's sequence more - it made more sense, I think. Obviously, the movie had to change some things due to time constraints, but still, I preferred the sequencing in the novel.
Also, the novel was definitely not as funny as the movie was. While the movie does not make light of Pat's situation, it does insert a lot of comic relief, probably to make the movie less heavy and intense. Although there are some funny parts in the novel, the novel is very clearly NOT a comedy and there is no confusion on this. The novel never loses its focus on how many challenges are presented by mental illness, which are felt by both the person who's suffering from mental illness and their loved ones. Although I think the movie did heighten viewers' awareness of these difficulties, the book did a better job of really portraying these struggles.
The last point I want to make is that, while I did like Pat's voice, at some points, I felt that Quick made him sound less intelligent than he meant to. I think that it's probably really difficult to portray someone who suffers from delusions without making them sound unintelligent, and there were definitely points in the book when I don't think that Quick made a clear enough distinction. For most of the book, Quick made it very clear that Pat actually is a very logical person - it's just that what is logical to Pat is not logical to most other people. This was fantastic. But there were some points when Pat's voice itself made him sound stupid - and when the author is trying to raise awareness about the stigma that is faced by those who suffer with mental illness, this quality is counter-productive.
Ultimately, I felt that this book was a well-written portrayal of the challenges faced by people suffering from mental illnesses, especially those people who have had to spend an extended amount of time in a treatment facility. As much as I enjoyed the movie, I wish that certain qualities of the book had been able to make the transition from the pages to the screen. If you're interested in psychology, I definitely recommend giving this book a try. The focus on Philadelphia sports may be viewed as a bonus by some, as well :)