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The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
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What a fun book! I’m sure it’s enjoyable for anyone that doesn’t have a stick up their ass, but it’s the kind of book that even non-readers will love, too, because it’s an easy read, and the chapters are short, and it’s entertaining the whole way through, and it’s funny as hell.

Our narrator, Pat Peoples, is pretty crazy by society’s standards. He’s been in “the bad place” for years, and once out, with the help of his sweet mother, he’s trying to get his life back on track so he can reunite with his wife, who everyone else knows won’t be coming back.

So Pat knows he has to be good, and he has to be careful not to hit himself in the head, or break things when he’s visited by his arch nemesis, Kenny G, or punch out Giants fans in the parking lot of Lincoln Financial Field. (Although, as a diehard Giants fan, I can still tell you that the fan in this specific scene really did deserve to get punched in the face.)

And Pat’s struggles are exacerbated, because it seems like nobody understands him. And when it comes down to it, aside from a “crazy” girl in his neighborhood, most people don’t. He gets frustrated with all those chemicals within him that make him different from others. And he even knows he’s different and that his head’s a little skewed, but all those chemicals are so impossible to control.

Yet Pat Peoples remains childlike in his optimism. He’s convinced that the movie of his life will work out. If he stays good, his wife will come back and “apart time” will end. They can even have a daughter, because he’s learned and he’s going to treat his wife like gold now, and he misses her so much that he kisses her picture every night before he goes to bed. And coping mechanisms like humming and counting to ten every time he sees Kenny G, help, but Pat also needs an actual outlet. He runs and works-out all day, because before he went to the bad place for apart time he let himself get to the point where he was “maybe ten to seventy pounds overweight.” And putting his full self into rooting for the Eagles helps create a way to bond with his brother and his former best friend, and -- sometimes fleetingly -- his father.

But of course this book isn’t about football. It’s about the slow, difficult growth that takes place from someone who’s been through a lot of pain, and has a lot against him, not only because of his lost loves and difficult past, but because of the sickness he can’t control. And it’s clear that Matthew Quick knows mental illness. He’s worked in the field, and is open enough to admit that he’s struggled with depression himself. This is refreshing: he knows what it’s like, and it shows. It’s a nearly impossible feat -- making a character with such a funny outlook on life, allowing us to laugh so hard at someone who is disturbed -- all while making this same character lovable and real, and not some kind of comical caricature, but a fellow human-being open to sympathy, in need of sympathy. But somehow Quick does it.

But what I really can’t understand is how this Matthew Quick guy can be from the Philadelphia area -- and even worse -- root for the Eagles. He seems so nice in the e-mails we exchanged. It makes me think that maybe he’s not really from the Philadelphia area at all, but maybe his publisher or someone made him change all the references he originally had in his manuscript that were about the Giants -- who must be the team he actually roots for -- to “Eagles” and all their corresponding players, and switched their stadiums and everything else for commercial reasons or something. Because everyone knows that people from Philadelphia don’t reply friendly to e-mails, especially when they’re big shot authors of books that are being turned into movies. And everyone knows that the only two things Philadelphia people do well is boo at kindergarten graduations and root for evil teams like the Eagles.

But I digress.

Because right now I’m thinking that maybe Pat Peoples isn’t so crazy. While he’s experienced a lot of pain, he’s actually more attuned to the moods and sensitivities of others than your average person on the street. I think that’s part of what makes Pat Peoples so freakin’ lovable: he knows he’s crazy and even calls himself mentally deranged, but he has such a soft spot for everyone. He knows how difficult life can be, and because of that awareness, he understands the struggles of others. Because of his illness he’s put up with a lot of shit that most of us will never have to. But the goddamn guy remains so positive. And with therapy and medication, and friends and family, he improves. Pat Peoples made it out of the bad place, but he’s not the only one who's better off because of it.

Those who are different from “normal”, with their outsider view of life, can wake us up from the day-to-day world we get lost in, even opening us up to bizarre humor in the most unlikely of circumstances. And I think they can teach us that “crazy” isn’t something to be afraid of at all; that “crazy” only means that someone doesn’t fit into our norms, and is mainly just straight-up misunderstood.

So I dug this book. It tickled my funny bone the whole way through, and it contained valuable messages.

So: 5-stars. Minus one star because I hate the Eagles, and when they came back and beat the Giants this year in the second “Miracle in the Meadowlands” it made me start to cry in front of my girlfriend’s brother and spun me into a minor depression that only got worse the following week when I flipped-out during my layover at Atlanta International Airport as the shared communal TV showed Brandon Jacobs fumbling just as the Giants were starting to come back against the Packers and their playoff hopes were diminished right in front of my eyes as I screamed the f-word in quick succession, and wailed and got up spilling my dinner all over my lap and onto the floor and shouted and stomped, and it scared some children and I think it made two of them cry, and I had airport security eying me up and walking towards me in case I needed to be taken away.

So four stars it is.
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Reading Progress

June 8, 2010 – Shelved
February 13, 2011 – Started Reading
February 17, 2011 –
page 50
February 20, 2011 – Finished Reading
February 21, 2011 – Shelved as: funny-shit
February 21, 2011 – Shelved as: good-fiction
February 21, 2011 – Shelved as: important-message
February 21, 2011 – Shelved as: memorable-characters
February 21, 2011 – Shelved as: romantic-love-and-hate
February 21, 2011 – Shelved as: tough-guys-and-gals

Comments Showing 1-21 of 21 (21 new)

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message 1: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben Oh, the narrator/protagonist HATES Kenny G. It's a hilarious book; I'll be surprised if it's less than 4-stars. I've already decided that my boss will like it -- and he's not a reader -- and plan on getting him a copy.

message 2: by Ben (last edited Feb 21, 2011 11:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben Scott, I guarantee you'll love it.

message 3: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben It seems everytime I drive here in Florida I scare some Granny.

message 4: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben Well, you got us this past season, that's for sure. I STLIL haven't gotten over the Miracle game. Fuck.

message 5: by Ben (last edited Feb 21, 2011 01:19PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben I just realized I got Yanni and Kenny G. confused. Whew.

And that game. I'm glad you enjoyed it, because it RUINED me. Prick. ; )

How we weren't in position for an onside kick ... and then later punting to that asshole -- heck, the whole 4th quarter: it's just insane. Like a nightmare too unrealistic to even be scary, because it's just too impossible to ever really happen.

But it's still not funny to me. Not at all. Maybe in 20 years.

Maybe not.

message 6: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben Only as good as your last season, I believe. Ya'll get one soon. Just keep enjoying your wins on us this past season while you can ; )

message 7: by Ben (last edited Feb 21, 2011 01:26PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben I'm not convinced that 3 of the 4 best teams in the NFC next year will be from our division. (You guys, us, Dallas -- who you better believe will be back and ready next year -- and then GB.)

message 8: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben Oh yeah, how sick is it that the Seahawks made it to the playoffs with a losing record? We beat them 41-7! Then again, they did win their first playoff game. That's one of many things I love about football: the "any given Sunday" cliche is absolutely true.

message 9: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben I feel your pain! I'm an Orioles fan. I also pine for the glory years....

message 10: by Mad Dog (new) - added it

Mad Dog This review makes me really want to read the book.

message 11: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben I have trouble seeing how someone wouldn't love it, Mad Dog. And you and I have similar taste, so I say go for it.

message 12: by Mad Dog (new) - added it

Mad Dog The best part of your review was finding out that you had a girlfriend. Well-read with a girlfriend: That is a good 'bifecta' for you and probably not easy to pull off.

message 13: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben I bet you have six of 'em, Mad Dog! A sixfecta, or whatever that would be called.

message 14: by Mad Dog (new) - added it

Mad Dog Your taste in books is great, but how on earth did you like Slaughterhouse Five? ... WORST ... BOOK ... EVER!!

message 15: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben Haha. It was a long time ago. It's been some time since I've read any Vonnegut, actually. But I remember his mind being very expansive; his perceptions wide and vast.

message 16: by Mad Dog (new) - added it

Mad Dog I have a long-suffering wife. I haven't had six girlfriends in the totality of my life! I think it is called a sexfecta, but, then again, maybe not.

Jenn(ifer) hey wait just a second, Ben! I'm from Philadelphia! sheesh.

message 18: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben That explains a lot!

Jenn(ifer) smart aleck!

Shoot Ajanant love your review!

Kitolson I agree with you about how book is all about slow difficult growth. One of the key aspects of the book that I loved and even learned from is how positive Pat was through all of this. When I was reading this book I too thought maybe Pat isn't as crazy as everyone thinks he is.

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