Every cloud has a silver lining.
This is what Pat Peoples, the main protagonist, firmly believes in. He just came out from a mental institution — the bad place as he calls it — and vows never to return there again. So he works hard on improving himself by (over) exercising daily, practicing being kind than being right, and reading books that Nikki, his wife, loves. He believes that his life is a movie moving towards a happy ending, complete with an awesome soundtrack, and all these he is doing because he wants to show Nikki that he is a changed man now and he deserves a second chance to win her back, despite being haunted by evil Kenny G.
I read The Silver Linings Playbook simultaneously with Hunger by Knut Hamsun, where the main character also suffers from some mental problems but the similarity ends there alone. Where the unnamed narrator in Hunger struggles to fight insanity brought about by sheer starvation, Pat Peoples has to contend with remembering a past that he has forgotten, but the sad thing is nobody wants to talk to him about it. Worse, he doesn’t know where his dearly beloved wife is.
The story is told through the voice of Pat Peoples himself and somehow this first person POV easily draws the reader into the thoughts and struggles and moods of a mentally unhealthy man. I sympathized deeply with Pat, and although there were times that I just wanted to shout at him and tell him to get real, his wife is never coming back, his resilience and strong belief in silver linings are still somehow commendable. Don’t we at times need this kind of tenacity? The stubbornness of holding on to hope? To believe in love and happy endings? And somehow I believe that Pat’s strong hope of his wife returning is what has actually made him better, despite having an ending different from what he has expected.
We can learn from Pat in so many ways. He is honest with his feelings, and he is in touch he is with his conscience, despite having acknowledged how bad he is before he went into the bad place.
Football plays a big part in this book, but since I am no fan of the game, I just browsed through some parts simply because I cannot understand the mechanics. I enjoyed the Eagles chant and cheer, though, and the parts where Pat enjoyed the company of his therapist during a football game.
All the other characters were portrayed well enough, although I cannot yet make up my mind whether to like Tiffany or not. The same with Nikki. I am curious as to what Pat’s father really thinks about the entire situation of having a son like Pat. Although I already expected this book to be a sad story, I am actually surprised with the ending. I think it is a beautiful ending to a well-played movie of a life still worth living despite the odds.
Pat may have been an extra-ordinary character for a novel, but Matthew Quick was able to draw a believable picture of how it is to struggle with a mental problem. It makes us more sympathetic to the needs and struggles of other people, and in the process learn from them and their experiences.
“Life is hard, Pat, and children have to be told how hard life can be.”
“So they will be sympathetic to others. So they will understand that some people have it harder than they do and that a trip through this world can be a wildly different experience, depending on what chemicals are raging through one’s mind.”
Yes, life is hard. But like Pat, I still believe in silver linings. 🙂
Recommended by Ella.
My copy: ebook