You know what I really love? Movie adaptations of novels. I’m definitely not one to be pretentious about them — I absolutely love seeing stories projected though different mediums. However, you know what I really don’t love? When movie adaptations of novels completely degrade the overall purpose of said novel, which I believe to be the case in the movie adaptation of Matthew Quick’s Silver Linings Playbook.
Now, I’m not talking minor plot points or scenes being left out; the movie actually followed the book’s plot pretty accurately. This book follows the story of a man who suffers from a mental illness, and the movie does an awful job of portraying him. I watched the movie first and liked it well enough. However, I didn’t end up reading the book until a couple years after the fact upon the recommendation of a friend, and I’m so glad I decided to give it a chance.
Silver Linings Playbook is narrated by the character Pat Peoples, a former history teacher who suffered a nervous breakdown and had to be institutionalized. In the beginning of the novel, Pat is released from the hospital and goes to back to his hometown to live with his parents. He thinks it has only been a couple of months since the incident, but is shocked and confused when he finds out it has actually been years. He longs to go back to his wife, who he finds out has left him. Pat decides he needs to piece together his memory and improve himself in order to win her back, which proves to be a problem since Nikki wants nothing to do with him.
Shortly after Pat returns home and begins attending mandated therapy, his friend Ronnie introduces him to his sister-in-law, Tiffany, who has also moved back home after her husband died and she lost her job. Ronnie believes that the two will be able to connect over their current unfortunate life situations. Pat is unsure about Tiffany at first, but ultimately decides to befriend her after she tells him she knows Nikki and is willing to deliver letters to her. The catch? Pat must agree to train with Tiffany and be her partner in a ballroom dance competition — a pastime that the football aficionado has absolutely zero interest or skill in.
I was definitely not expecting this book to be so important to me because I was a little deterred by the movie’s portrayal of the characters. In the movie, the characters are arguably quite flat and are ultimately just caricatures of their illnesses. In the book, however, Quick creates relatable, multi-faceted characters who prove that people with mental illnesses are still, in fact, regular people — something the media likes to forget.
And while there are elements of romance in this story, romance is not used to magically make the characters’ mental illnesses disappear. Quick writes three-dimensional characters who learn to grow and deal with their illnesses, and I really appreciate that aspect of the book. Often in books and movies, characters find love or have sudden realizations and are automatically absolved of all of their problems. Silver Linings Playbook is much more true to life than that. It shows people with mental illnesses that they are normal, that their problems are real, and that even though life is not going to be perfect like a clichéd romance movie, it can still be fulfilling and worthwhile.
— Kelly Lyons, Fiction and Nonfiction Editor