“Once upon a time . . .” are the four great words to begin every good fairy tale. Pat would like to think this was his life, a fairy tale, ending in happily ever after. The dream ending concludes with Pat and Nikki holding hands as the sun sets. Only something is not quite right with Pat’s mind. He can’t seem to remember everything and he has misplaced over four years of his life. Is he mentally ill, or is he suffering from a trauma that is too horrifying to remember? Who is this girl Tiffany and why is she interested in him? And why in the world would his therapist suggest that adultery is therapeutic?Many of you by now, I am sure, would recognize many similarities between this plot line and the academy award nominated picture Silver Linings Playbook, directed by David O. Russell. And while the movie may very well have been a superb piece of filmmaking, it is based upon the novel Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, a work worth a look in its own right.
It intelligently explores the life of Pat Peoples the man who believes that life, as it does in the movies, should have happy endings. He has had too much “away time” from his wife for this reprieve from the mental institution to be the happy ending he has envisioned with his wife. He is seeking his own silver lining.While we are slowly introduced to the somewhat unhinged life of Pat Peoples, Matthew Quick delicately exposes his audience to the world of mental illness. Spending a great portion of my life connected to people who have suffered or are suffering through various stages of illness, I recognize Quick’s brilliance at bringing his audience into this world filled with rationalization and chaos, along with beauty and optimism. As with any good novel, his protagonist’s life gets far more complicated before it straightens itself out.
Along with delving into the life of Pat we are also exposed to the lives of other colorful characters, frequently with as many issues as the man who is supposed to be mentally ill. There is the long-suffering mother who cannot handle the emotionally stunted father, whose every moment is dictated by the Jets football season. There is the therapist Cliff who often acts more like a friend than a therapist, shouting Jets’ football cheers at the end of every therapy session. Ronnie, the best friend, cannot be his own person outside his wife, Veronica. And finally there is Tiffany, the guilt-ridden emotionally torn apart and sometimes violent dancer who seems to have designs on Pat that we are constantly questioning.With all of these “normal” people surrounding Pat, it is a wonder that he ever wants to be normal. One begins to wonder what he is “improving” himself for. But in the end one believes in Pat and the silver linings he is hoping for, even if they are not exactly what he expects. I wholeheartedly recommend Silver Linings Playbook. Read it, and begin to see the beauty of life’s silver linings, both the expected, and the unexpected.