I recently went on a Matthew Quick kick. I had already seen the film “Silver Linings Playbook” more times than I can count at this point, and I was discussing it with my friendly local librarian. She suggested I read the book. I had avoided it because of some Goodreads reviews that made it seem like I’d enjoy it less than the movie, but I decided to trust her.
(I’m glad I took her advice. They are very different from each other, and both excellent, though I am frustrated about some of the changes David O. Russell made with the screenplay.)
She also recommended that I read “Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock.” Since the library had that one available, I took it home and read it right away.
Soon, the library acquired an interlibrary loan copy of “The Silver Linings Playbook” for me, and I read it in one day. Then I read it again over the next two days. A few days later, I read it a third time. That’s how good it is.
Yesterday, I took “Boy 21” out of the library, started it in bed and stayed up too late reading it, then finished it this morning.
“Boy 21” and “Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock” are young adult fiction about high schoolers, while “The Silver Linings Playbook” is about people in their thirties.
I really think that the plots are best experienced simply by reading the books themselves, rather than being prepared by knowing a bit about them ahead of time. The characters and storylines are unique and refreshing, with quite a few surprises in store.
I’m grouping the books together because I read them together, and they are connected by certain commonalities despite their great differences.
An underlying theme in Quick’s books, at least those I have read so far (and I will be reading his others), is that of working through the effects of trauma.
There is often more than one character working on or hiding from their own trauma, and whether or not these characters know this about one another, the reader knows. This helps the reader realize and internalize that though the characters feel very alone in their pain, they are not alone. Other people are often dealing with issues of their own, which their friends, family, or enemies may know nothing about.
The characters’ backstories can be somewhat triggering. They are intense and tragic. I think it’s important to know that reading them can be upsetting.
I believe this is necessary for what the author is trying to accomplish. The stories that emerge are real, down-to-earth, beautiful accounts of personal triumph over tragedy, often helped along by the power of friendship (usually the kind found in unexpected places).
To the reader with a painful past and a confusing, difficult present, these books say, “You are not alone. You can also get better, just like these characters. Keep fighting.” To all readers, they also say, “Remember that you don’t know what battles everyone else might be fighting. Be kind.”
Five out of five stars to each one of these books. Five stars to Matthew Quick.