During his years in a neural-health facility, Pat Peoples has formulated a theory about silver linings. He believes that his life is a movie produced by God, that his mission is to become physically fit and emotionally supportive, and that if he succeeds, his happy ending will be the return of his estranged wife, Nikki.When Pat goes to live with his parents, everything seems changed: no one will talk to him about Nikki, and his new therapist seems to be recommending adultery as a form of therapy. Then, Pat meets clinically depressed widow Tiffany, who offers to act as a liaison between him and his wife - provided he agrees to a secret contract that includes giving up football and performing in the next Dance Away Depression competition.
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Quick has managed to capture the essence of something terribly fundamental to at least a portion of humanity; dysfunctional love mixed with mental illness and obsession. To get a bias out of the way immediately, I was born and raised within a half hour of the location of this book; the addresses in Philadelphia mean something to me and I can still smell South Philadelphia when I close my eyes at night, thinking about my home. Quick captures Eagles fever, the feel of Philadelphia, and its suburbs magnificently.
Another thing to address, right out the gate, is the comparison between the book and the movie. I really dug the movie. I thought Lawrence and Cooper did tremendous jobs. I also understand why the film was scripted the way it was. That being said, as is the case in many instances, the book allows a level of nuance that 2 hours of screen time just can't capture. I think you have to view the movie as the Cliff's Notes to the book. Significant plot changes occurred and, quite frankly, the movie was very watered down.
This was a difficult listen, emotionally, for me. Mental illness is addressed, at length, as the primary vehicle plot. And it does a spectacular job of it. But Quick's book is so much more than that. It's family dysfunction countered by standing up for the people you love. It's desperately, frantically, obsessively yearning for happiness (in a fairy tale kind of way), but accepting a more reality based version. It's a journey of self discovery and taking charge of your own life's story, of finding love and forgiveness in unexpected places.
Quick also managed to capture the feeling of desperately trying to 'fix' some past failure or disaster in one's life. Feeling like there is a crushing weight pressing in on all sides while consistently stumbling. The best laid plans...
In the end, it was a beautiful and delicate listen, even if difficult at times. Highest marks and significantly better than the film.
Matthew Quick has accomplished several amazing things here, and it's really hard to list them all. First, he has documented the nature of mental illness in general and bipolar disorder in fine detail, the first book (in my experience) to do this in novel form. Second, he has drawn a terrific, touching love story between two people who are both fragile and suffering from loss. They are both determined, nonetheless, to find the "silver linings" in life. Three, he has depicted a suffering family which is trying to cope with a deeply disturbed, isolated and enraged father. Fourth, he has portrayed the love story between a community and its football team, the Philadelphia Eagles. The passion that the fans have for their team is almost unimaginable in its ferocity, a love that many men understand and many women cannot. If you are a woman, just think of sports as male emotionality. Fifth (I am counting) he has depicted a very unusual relationship between a therapist and his patient. Cliff, the psychiatrist who follows Pat after his four-year involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital, is also a raving Eagles fan, who delights in jumping out of his chair and doing the Eagles chant. When Pat is puzzled by this (as who wouldn't be), Cliff says, "When I sit in this chair, I am your therapist. When I get out of this chair, I am your friend and fellow Eagles fan." Can you imagine any psychiatrist, if you know any, who could do such a thing? I have lost track of all that Mr. Quick has done here, but, trust me, it is an awe-inspiring thing. For one in the profession (I am a psychologist), it is all the more astounding. That the book works so well on all of these levels, and more, is just a pleasure. I think Mr. Quick is a young author, and I hope we will hear more from him. Mr. Porter does a great job with this challenging material. Serious mental illness is frightening, and both these men have done a wonderful job of conveying the torment that these patients suffer. Even so, the book is uplifting. If you have seen the movie, you know that it is wonderful as well, but it is quite different.. A movie has much different rules than a book, and it just can't convey the richness of this work of fiction. The book may be hard to listen to at times, as Mr. Quick does not pull any punches, so just put it down for a while and then come back to it. The book and the movie combined have contributed to the process of destigmatizing mental illness, which is all very much to the good. I am preaching here, so I will stop. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.