Matthew Quick provides a window into the mind of his unique Everyman main character in The Silver Linings Playbook. Pat Peoples is a thirty-something guy who has just been sprung from “the bad place” by his mom and her legal team. And he tries hard to reintegrate himself into the world. Which includes “getting right” with all the behaviors he knows his wife Nikki would expect.
Except that Pat isn’t seeing things accurately. He’s had a long break from reality, and his metal health isn’t quite right. Leaving the facility is just the start of his process, and Quick gives us a front row seat to the workings of Pat’s mind. His compulsion to work out, and his desire to be a kinder person. Pat also reads classic American literature, for Nikki is a high school English teacher.
Pat’s also trying to reconnect with his family, which in addition to his caring mom, includes a recalcitrant dad and fun loving brother. The Peoples men are big fans of the Philadelphia Eagles, and this provides some necessary levity. Eagles fans chant a fight song, talk a lot about football, and openly challenge supporters of opposing teams. Generally, they qualify as rabid fans.
Quick also throws in some tentative female friendship, with the character of Tiffany. Although Pat is married, we come to learn he’s estranged from his wife. Still, he’s uncomfortable being around Tiffany. She has demons of her own, included a recently deceased husband. Their situations are strikingly similar, but each has a different approach to the rehabilitation process.
This is a heartfelt book that became a feel-good movie in 2012. I picked it up to fulfill a book-to-movie prompt in one of my 2019 reading challenges. There are some genuinely hysterical moments, but mostly this is a medium dark read.
Quick delves deeply into the way Pat’s mind works. At times it’s uncomfortably specific in its detail. Truthfully, that’s what makes this an excellent book. The characterization of Pat’s thoughts and emotions is exceedingly real. There are plenty of gut punches as he figures out all the events and feelings he’s repressed. And his relationship with his therapist Cliff is a small peek at the inner workings of therapy.
I enjoyed all the Eagles fandom, especially since I live in a part of Pennsylvania with many similarly inclined folks. I know what it is to love your team the way the Peoples love the Eagles. The football story line is a welcome contrast to the unhappier aspects of Silver Linings.
All in all, this is a strongly written book that doesn’t hesitate to tackle tough issues. In some ways it reminds me of the Pickle’s Progress, although Pat is considerably more likable than Pickle. I recommend it for the unflinching portrayal of mental health issues, as well as family and new relationship dynamics.