screenshot100 I confess, it was the trailer for the film that got me interested in The Silver Linings Playbook. I like Jennifer Lawrence and I think Bradley Cooper is very good looking, and they’re in a movie together? Let’s check this out. But after doing a bit of research, I discovered that like many Oscar nominated films, The Silver Linings Playbook is an adaptation of a novel. So I decided to read the book before seeing the movie.

This was a book that I wanted to LOVE. That I wanted to stay up really late reading and gush about to all of my friends, and say “you really, REALLY have to read this book.” And although I enjoyed it, I don’t feel my anticipated level of adoration.  Don’t get me wrong.  I still enthusiastically recommend reading the book, but I just don’t have a crush on it the way I have some prior reads.  I’m struggling to put my finger on precisely why, so instead of telling you what didn’t work for me, I’ll start by telling you what did. Sometimes, as I do that, I’m better able to articulate all my feelings.

What worked. For starters, we know from the beginning we are dealing with mental illness. The story opens with Pat Peoples’ mother taking him home from a mental institution. Pat thinks he’s on his way to an end of “apart time”. You see, in Pat’s worldview, life is a movie and it ends with a silver lining. He’s been in the conflict portion of his movie, and now it’s time for his happy ending- in his mind, that is a reunion with his wife, Nikki.  The whole story is told from Pat’s perspective. At times, Pat comes across as a normal man in his mid-thirties. At other times, his stilted, almost childlike language and delivery serve as a stark reminder that he is suffering significant mental issues.  But Pat’s fragile state, his longing to be “kind rather than right” and reconcile with his wife, and his tenuous relationship with his family and friends do make for compelling reading.

This is a man who has lost a significant amount of his past, who is looking for his happy ending and will do whatever it takes to get it.  Pat’s not the only complex character; Tiffany has her own share of issues and is in any number of ways as lost as Pat. Pat’s family and friends walk a fine line, trying to have their normal life while knowing that normal for Pat is somewhat different- they want to see him happy and whole, but they also want to protect him. In some instances, they also fear him (although they would be hard-pressed to admit that).

What is poignant about the book is that Pat learns a lesson many of us do: that the happy ending we get isn’t always the one we want. The thing is, we have to be willing to embrace that other happy endings may exist.

So what didn’t work?  I’m still struggling with that.  I think part of it was pacing.  I think part of it was that when we finally find out why Pat was in the institution to begin with, it felt a little anti-climactic.  That may be an ignorance of mental illness and  its many triggers and ramifications on my part.  But that the trigger forced Pat into the reaction that it did and caused so much angst and drama, well, I just thought it was going to be something MORE (which could also be a result of my ability to tend toward the dramatic).  But when the worst thing you say about a book is that you enthusiastically recommend it, well, that’s still pretty high praise.

I do recommend The Sliver Linings Playbook. I can’t wait to see the movie, and not just because Bradley Cooper is good-looking. I want to see if bringing Pat to life, so to speak, fills in some of the gaps that I felt in reading the book.  But read it.  It’s good. It’s some heavy subject matter, yes, but it’s hopeful and poignant.