Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

MV5BMTM2MTI5NzA3MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODExNTc0OA@@._V1_SX640_SY720_“Most people lose the ability to see silver linings even though they are always there above us almost every day.”

When I first saw Silver Linings Playbook in theaters I had two motivations: 1) It was starring Jennifer Lawrence, the most radiant actress in Hollywood, and my biggest lady-crush; and 2) It looked like the kind of quirky movie that my best friend and I loved to bond over.

I was right – it was a movie capable of captivity audiences of all ages, from me and my best friend, both arguably lovers of good romantic comedies, to my grouchy dad, who rarely, if ever, likes a “chick-flick.” It’s quirky and spirited, and it’s a movie that takes that tried and true “good stories produce good happy endings” message and makes it feel fresh again. I don’t think I had seen a movie pull of that effect well since I dragged my dad to see Crazy Stupid Love a few summers prior. My point is, I was wowed by the movie so much that I actually cared about the Oscars and got really upset when it didn’t win (I hold by that).

At the time I didn’t even know that it was a book. I didn’t learn that until I came back from Italy in May. And then I was a little afraid to read it because I knew it would change everything. Books and movies are rarely one and the same. But at the same time I found that it is very fitting that this book became a movie because Pat, the central character and narrator, is obsessed with watching the movie of his life, and he often describes scenarios in movie terms. For example he spends one chapter giving the reader a “montage” summary of his weeks of training for Tiffany’s dance competition (which, consequently, is a much bigger deal in the movie than in the novel).

Quick’s Silver Linings Playbook bears only a vague passing resemblance to the movie adaptation. The narrator, Pat, is mentally unstable and looking to be reunited with his wife Nikki. This is his one goal throughout the novel – to get Nikki back and end “apart time.” Pat is a likable character – he’s easy to understand and he’s got plenty of optimism in a world where a little goes a very long way. The supporting cast are all vibrant and rich foils to showcase his insanity, and it’s a great story about trying to stay afloat in a world that often feels hellbent on keeping you adrift. You certainly don’t have to be off your rocker to appreciate how tenuous reality can feel sometimes.

Opposite Pat is Tiffany, another so-called “nut-case” trying to work through her own gruesome demons by trying to help Pat through his. Between the two of them there are more than enough pills to go around.

Page by page the reader gets clues to what happened in Pat’s past to have put him away in a mental institution for so long, and it’s a slow realization that hits you almost as hard as it hits him. But throughout the novel there are, fittingly, silver linings in abundance.

Single-serving raisin bran for two, footballs games to unite friends and brothers, long runs, and plenty of clouds outlined by that ever persistent sun. And that’s what I really loved about this book. It’s a shining beacon of optimism, even when there is no hope.

It’s a shame that the movie, which I still love even having read the book, dumbs down so much of the mental instability and upscales the romance between Pat and Tiffany. The book is simpler and less of a rom-com, but it’s a beautiful little book, with a great big heart beating through every page. This book feels like the underdog you can’t help but root for, and it pays off in the end with the realization that life/fate/God doesn’t always give you what you most want, but it almost always leads you where you’re most needed. And that is, in my opinion, something more stories should explore. The ending is happy, but it’s not the fireworks display you expect, no – it’s must quieter, and that makes it just that much more beautiful.

At the end of the book, on the very last page, Pat observes that, in regards to this ending he’s found, “there’s something honest about all of this.” I’d have to say I agree – there’s something so very honest about Silver Linings Playbook that you cannot hope to put it down. And rarely have I read a book that’s had me feeling so ready to revaluate my own methods for dealing with rain clouds.

I really think everyone should learn to look up and remember that silver linings really are everywhere.

Rating: 4/5 stars 

Overall Reaction: “Feeling pretty good about life right now.”

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