Sunday, October 20, 2013
Staying Sunny In Philadelphia
Silver Linings Playbook
by Matthew Quick
4 out of 5 crabby snacks.
Pat Peoples has been confined to the ‘bad place’, but he finally gets to leave and live with his parents until he can get back on his feet. Pat’s main goal is to continue on a path of self improvement including working on being kinder, strenuous exercise and reading books so he'll be a better husband when he finally sees his beloved wife Nikki again after their ‘apart time’.
Pat likes being home, but his moody father refuses to talk to him unless the Philadelphia Eagles win. Plus, his mother and his therapist are both encouraging him to spend time with Tiffany, a very strange woman who was recently widowed. It’s almost like no one understands that he’s still married to Nikki. As he works on becoming a better person, Pat gets to attend the Eagles home games with his brother and makes a lot of friends at the pre-game tailgates. As they start winning, the superstitious fans think that Pat is good luck, and even his father becomes much friendlier. As long as he can control his temper and continues to work hard, Pat is sure that he’ll get the kind of happy ending you see in the movies.
Since this is about a guy whose life has been shattered and he doesn’t even know it, you’d think Pat’s story would be incredibly sad. Instead, the bittersweet humor that Mathew Quick has laced the book with makes it a pleasure to read instead of a depressing slog. Pat’s devotion to the cause of reuniting with Nikki can be simultaneously infuriating and endearing, and while we only get his usually slightly bewildered view point, you can also completely understand how those around him are feeling.
Quick also does a particularly nice job of detailing the highs and lows of sports fandom. Pat bonds with his brother and becomes part of a community while tailgating. The team provides him a link to his emotionally distant and stubborn father. Even his therapist is a rabid Eagle’s fan, and this helps Pat to trust and like him. While the games provide great entertainment and instant connections, there‘s also a big downside to them. An ugly incident with a rival team’s fan in the parking lot illustrates how sports fans can be merciless. (It also highlights that wearing a rival team’s jersey to a game in Philly is a spectacularly bad idea.) Pat’s dad is so wrapped up in the Eagles that a loss can make him even harder to live with. When Pat makes a commitment to Tiffany that causes him to miss some games, everyone begins blaming him for the losses.
( However, I couldn’t be too critical of the characters being superstitious because I’m writing this on a Sunday afternoon waiting for the kick-off a Chiefs’ game while wearing the same red t-shirt I’ve worn for the last 6 games because they’ve won all 6. As the commercials say, it’s only weird if it doesn’t work.)
I also very much enjoyed the movie version of this. Even though it’s a fairly faithful adaptation there are also several big differences that made reading the novel surprising in several ways so this is one of those incidents where it’s well worth checking out both versions.