Why did NPR’s popular librarian Nancy Pearl pick The Silver Linings Playbook as one of summer’s best reads for 2009?
"Aawww shucks!” Pearl said. “I know that’s hardly a usual way to begin a book review, but it was my immediate response to finishing Matthew Quick’s heartwarming, humorous and soul-satisfying first novel . . . This book makes me smile.”
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!
As the award-winning novelist Justin Cronin put it: “Tender, soulful, hilarious, and true, The Silver Linings Playbook is a wonderful debut.”
Matthew Quick's debut novel is the kind that works best with its own soundtrack. This became clear to me on page 190, in a chapter called "My Movie's Montage," in which narrator Pat Peoples instructs the reader to pop a copy of "Gonna Fly Now" -- a.k.a. Rocky Balboa's theme song, and "perhaps the greatest song in the world," according to Pat -- into the CD player. His musical suggestion is meant to provide accompaniment to a sequence in which Pat, our hero, pumps iron, is chased during his daily jog by the woman who may (or may not) be his romantic lead, and learns modern dance from the same woman. That last scene also brings to mind Saturday Night Fever, though, we are told, the routine is choreographed to Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Conversely, the very first chapter also establishes Pat's deep and abiding hatred for smooth-jazz saxophone soloist Kenny G, whom he considers his nemesis.