Title: The Silver Linings Playbook
Author: Matthew Quick
Synopsis (from bn.com): Meet Pat Peoples. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure him a happy ending—the return of his estranged wife, Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent several years in a mental health facility.)
The problem is, Pat’s now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he’s being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he’s being haunted by Kenny G!
My thoughts: I am not exactly sure where to start with this review as I have so many thoughts and things to say about this particular book. I really, really try to find something positive in all of the books I read, but I must say I am struggling to find that with “The Silver Linings Playbook”. As a disclaimer, I have not seen the movie yet (which I have read is far better than the book) an am simply reviewing the book.
My book club chose this as our May book because of all buzz that was created by the movie winning a number of Oscars. I, for one, was excited to read it as it dealt with the topic of mental illness. First of all (and I know his diagnosis was very different in the movie), to me the main character didn’t even have a mental illness in the book but rather a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) based on the description of what happened to him in the book. TBI and mental illness – not the same, so this bugged me. Then the synopsis said he was in a “mental institution”, the book actually says “neural institution” which suggests to me more neurorehab that would go with the TBI. Ok, ok, I know this is super nitpicky but it bugged me.
As a music therapist and counselor I have the opportunity to work with individuals with mental illness and the topic holds a special place in my heart. Now, I don’t want to get all up on my soap box of “I’m a counselor and I know everything about mental illness”, but I really do think this book’s overall portrayal of individuals with mental illness really ruined the whole book for me to the point where I couldn’t see beyond it. I thought the book’s portrayal of people with mental illness was just uninformed and simply not accurate. I am sure the author was going for a charming, “Forest Gump-type” character who was a simple thinker and would win the reader’s hearts, but it really missed the mark for me. As I was reading, I just wanted to scream out “People with mental illness are not juvenile, childlike, stupid people who can’t do anything by themselves”. I mean referring to his institution as “the bad place” and his separation from his wife as “apart time”, his mother buys all of his clothes for him and almost literally lays them out for him – come on, he wasn’t incapable and stupid. As I’m sure you can tell, this whole issue really bugged me and in not being able to see beyond it, I missed what was supposed to be charming and heartwarming.
I found the rest of the characters in the book rather flat and underdeveloped as well. There could have been a great deal of depth in them and how they interacted with the main character, but it just felt like a really simple book with no plot development and a super simple story. I do understand that the author was writing the book from the perspective and voice of the main character who was more simple and had cognitive/mental health issues (I’m still not sure which), but it really felt like the book was written by a fourth grader.
As an avid Green Bay Packer fan, I must say that I did really enjoy the underlying plot of the family really coming together through Philadelphia Eagles football. I really connected with all of the descriptions of the games, the avid fans, the tailgating, etc, so I did find this element of the book rather fun.
From reviews that I have read I understand that the movie is very, very different than the book and actually much, much better. It is not often that I say that the movie is better than the book – but I am sincerely hoping this is the case. Having just read the book, I have absolutely no idea how it became an Oscar winning movie. I think that the author owes a huge thank you to the screenwriter who turned a very mediocre book into what I understand is a decent movie.
In my effort to come up with at least some positive from my experience with this book, I did come up with a few things. It is a very quick read, so even if I clearly had some issues with it, I was able to get through it in one day. As odd as this sounds, I actually really liked how much I didn’t like this book (WHAT??). What I mean by this is that the book got me thinking, it got me analyzing, and it reminded me how passionate I am about certain topics. Books and reading to me should make a person think and spark a reaction – The Silver Linings Playbook certainly did this for me. I was actually irritated and crabby when I finished reading it, but that is alright. A person doesn’t have to like every book they read, but if that book got the person thinking or sparked an emotional response – mission accomplished.
Alright, I believe I have said my peace about this book and it is time to move on!
Books Are Life,