Silver Linings Playbook: Crazy, Love, and a Little More Crazy

Pat Peoples is a former high school history teacher who has just returned to live at home with his parents after a four-year stint at a psychiatric hospital. Having little to no recollection of the last four years of his life, Pat must come to terms with the fact that he is now separated from his beloved wife, Nikki, and has missed four years not only of the lives of himself, his friends, and his family, but four seasons of his cherished Philadelphia Eagles. As if this weren’t enough, Pat must rebuild his strained relationship with his father, who won’t even speak to him, help his mother, who is struggling with her own demons, and get to know his brother again, who has grown up and gotten a whole new life in Pat’s absence. In an effort to rationalize this to himself, Pat decides that God has decided to make his life into a movie, and like all movies, his will have a “silver lining” or happy ending, namely in the reconciliation between himself and his wife. All he has to do to find this silver lining is to improve himself both physically and intellectually, and to practice being “kind instead of right.” During his journey to self-improvement, Pat meets Tiffany, a recently widowed young woman with her own host of psychological struggles. Although he’s originally put off and annoyed by Tiffany, Pat comes to realize that she needs him to be “kind instead of right” as much as he needs someone who can understand and empathize with the myriad of obstacles he is struggling through in his attempt to get his life back.

silverliningplaybook02Let me start by saying that I saw this movie shortly after it was released and absolutely adored every freaking second of it. So, imagine my mirth when I found out that this paragon of cinematic excellence was actually based on a book! It was as if the clouds had parted and a choir of angels was singing a sweet melody just for me. Upon this revelation, I began searching incessantly and fruitlessly for what I was sure would be the literary experience of my life thus far. I cannot begin to express to you the sheer, unadulterated joy I felt upon finding this book at my favorite second-hand book place, The Baltimore Book Thing, after I had been searching for it literally for years! This place touts itself as a “warehouse full of unwanted books for those that actually want them.” And boy, did I want, need, HAVE TO HAVE, this book. I’m pretty sure I executed a completely embarrassing, yet fully justified “happy book dance” right in the middle of the aisle. That being said, I’m sad to say I had a number of issues with this novel.

I began reading Silver Linings nearly a week before I finished it. This, in and of itself, is highly unusual for me. I got through the first 30 pages in the first sitting, and through a series of events, found myself procrastinating and finding reasons not to pick it up again until this past Saturday. This was not a difficult read. Once I resigned myself to pick it back up, I actually got through the book rather quickly and easily. My procrastination merely stemmed from the fact that the first 30 pages of the novel irritated me so badly that I had to steel and ready myself to get back to it. I did so on the hope and the prayer that somewhere down the line, somehow, it would get better. Again, I found myself disappointed. So disappointed in fact, that I waited a full 48 hours before writing this review so I could have time to breathe and hopefully formulate a more objective viewpoint, rather than one based on the dashed hopes and dreams of somebody who was excitedly anticipating this novel with every fiber of her being.

My main issue was with the voice of the narrator and main character, Pat Peoples. In an effort to create an unreliable narrator, the author depicts Pat as having bipolar disorder with episodes of uncontrollable rage. Admittedly, I do not have experience with, nor do I know much about bipolar disorder, but I feel that if I did suffer from it, I would be highly offended by the author’s portrayal. And, let’s not even get into Pat’s relationship with his therapist, which is unconventional at best, and an insult to the profession at worst. Rather than coming off as mentally or emotionally disturbed, Pat appears as though he is mentally handicapped. Consequentially, the character presents as more than a little juvenile with thought processes and reactions that are reminiscent of those of a traumatized 10-year-old boy. This is evident not only in his disjointed and often overly-simple internal dialogue, but in his reactions to and relationships with those around him and his life in general.

37586aPat often refers to his separation from his wife as “Apart time,” which reminded me of a how a young child would refer to and rationalize the separation of his parents, not how a 35 year old man would speak of his separation from his wife. His dogged insistence to anyone who will listen that he will eventually reunite with his wife is alternately endearing and sweet and infuriating and creepy. He also refers to the mental institution from which he has recently been released as “The Bad Place.” As a child, my favorite movie was (and probably still is) Homeward Bound. In this movie, the main character, Chance, an American Bulldog, refers to the pound he was adopted from as “The Bad Place.” I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between these two characters the entire time I was reading this novel. Both characters at times appear dopey and out of touch with the reality of their surroundings and circumstances and often give off a bit of a “derp” vibe. Keep in mind, Homeward Bound is a film for children.

That being said, Silver Linings playbook was Matthew Quick’s first foray outside of the Young Adult world and into the world of Adult Fiction. Unfortunately, this is a fact that is profoundly evident throughout the novel. From the choppy dialogue, to the underdeveloped characters, to Pat’s misguided and childish attempts to rectify his relationship with his father, this book absolutely screams YA, and not well at that. Many young adult novels are chock-full of wonderfully developed characters, dialogue, and themes. Unfortunately, this book wasn’t one of them.

I absolutely detest writing negative reviews, if for no other reason than the fact that I have a profound admiration and respect for the skill, tenacity, and patience it takes to write a novel, much less get it published. Based on plot alone, this book had enormous promise (as evidenced by the fact that it made for a fantastic movie.) With a bit more thought, attention to detail, character development, and research on and understanding of the intended subject matter, it could have been something spectacular. Unfortunately, it fell flat on all of these platforms and was one of the few novels I’ve come across that failed to live up to its cinematic adaptation.

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Hemingway’s Girl: An In-Depth View of Key West and its Most Famous Resident

4 StarsHemingway’s Girl is a fictional portrayal of the life of Ernest Hemingway from the point of view of Mariella Bennet, a young Cuban-American girl who is struggling to make ends meet. Mariella is a strong, independent woman who, because of the tragic death of her father, is tasked with the responsibility of caring for her grieving mother and two younger sisters. She often goes hungry, works at the fishing docks for tips, and has to steal just to feed her family.  To pay the rent, Mariella finds herself betting on local boxing matches to build upon the tips she has earned throughout her work day.  It’s at one of these matches that she meets the famed Ernest Hemingway.  Upon meeting Hemingway, Mariella is immediately drawn to and caught up in a mutual attraction with the famous writer, who, at the time, was married to his second wife, Pauline.  Shortly after their meeting, Mariella is hired on as a maid in Hemingway’s Key West home, which only serves to intensify and complicate their relationship and attraction.  While trying to sort through her feelings and her resulting guilt, Mariella meets Gavin, a WWI vet and boxer, while in Hemingway’s company.  Her attraction to him, like her attraction to “Papa” Hemingway, is instantaneous, but far less complicated.  Mariella must decide whether to give into her temptation with the infamous lady’s man writer, or to hold tightly to the steadfast boxer with eyes only for her.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel.  Like many others who pick up Hemingway’s Girl, I have read Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife and was eager to read more about the complicated character and life of Ernest Hemingway.  Also, having read Receive Me Falling, Erika Robuck’s debut novel, I had high hopes for this book.  My hopes were met and exceeded by leaps and bounds. The story was wonderfully written, flowed beautifully, and kept me engaged from the first page to the last.

A book taking place in Key West just begs to be read at the beach, so I spent my first three hours with Hemingway’s Girl at the beach down the street from my house (and I have the sunburn to prove it!)   A neighborhood beach in Baltimore pales in comparison to the crystal clear water and white sands of Key West, but it added to the inherent beauty of the novel nonetheless.

11221579_720092824382_8978287949281637256_nWhile I expected this novel to be an in-depth and behind the scenes view of Hemingway and his life with his second wife, much like The Paris Wife was about the first, Hemingway’s presence and story in this novel seemed to serve more as a catalyst to the greater story of the culture and drama of depression-era Key West.  Not only has Mrs. Robuck done her research on Hemingway and his life, but the reader stands to learn a lot about bigotry in Key West in the 1930’s, the complicated relationship between WWI vets and civilians, and about the Labor Day hurricane of 1935.  There are so many knowledge bombs dropped in this book, that any other writer would have had her readers’ heads spinning. But, this novel is written so wonderfully, and in such a relatable manner, that the reader is sucked into and truly feeling the story and circumstances as they unfold.  I, like I’m sure many readers, alternately found myself rooting for something to happen between Mariella and Hemingway (and feeling bad about it), and falling in love with Gavin right along with the main character.

Erika Robuck had me going from laughing to crying and from heartbreak to elation at the drop of a hat.  I had this experience with Receive Me Falling as well, and was lucky enough to have the opportunity to tell her so when she visited my college English class while she was in the process of writing this book.  Eliciting strong emotion from her readers appears to be a particular talent of this author, and I look forward to having the experience again as I read more of her work.

The Little Paris Bookshop: A Bookish Love Affair

*I received this as an e-book ARC from Crown Publishing in exchange for an honest review*

5 Stars

Jean Perdu is a 50 year-old man who runs a “literary apothecary” on a floating barge in the Seine River.  Rather than just selling popular novels to whomever wants to buy them, Jean sells his customers the books they need in that exact moment. He explains it like this:

“I wanted to treat feelings that are not recognized as afflictions and are never diagnosed by doctors. All those little feelings and emotions no therapist is interested in, because they are apparently too minor and intangible. The feeling that washes over you when another summer nears its end Or when you recognize that you haven’t got your whole life left to find out where you belong. Or the slight sense of grief when a friendship doesn’t develop as you thought, and you have to continue your search for a lifelong companion. Or those birthday morning blues. Nostalgia for the air of your childhood. Things like that.”

For twenty years, as he treats the emotional afflictions of his customers, he can’t seem to treat the one that really matters; his own.  Jean suffers from an all-consuming destructive grief over the loss of the great love of his life.  Because of this, he forms no close relationships and deprives himself of the home, food, and creature comforts he loves.  Eventually, after a sequence of events that I will not divulge here, Mr. Perdu hauls anchor on his barge and goes on a literal and metaphorical journey to heal himself.  This book is about grief, sorrow, tragedy, and the power books and the human spirit possess to overcome them.

In case you couldn’t tell from my long-winded summary, I absolutely fell in love with this book.  Only 5% in, I knew I was a goner.  From the wonderful story line, to the absolutely beautiful prose-like language, reading The Little Paris Bookshop was like wrapping yourself up with a soft blanket straight out of the dryer.  It fills you with such warmth and comfort as can only be found in the best of stories.  As the novel unfolds, you not only grow to love Mr. Perdu and his wonderful and equally broken cast of friends, but you come to know and truly appreciate the healing power of books.

As if the actual story wasn’t enough, this book has the best epilogue I’ve ever read (and I’m a stickler for epilogues.) It tells you everything you want (or at this point NEED) to know, with the same beautiful prose and imagery that is prolific in the body of the novel.  In addition to this, it contains recipes from the south of France that are talked about in the book, and, the cherry on top of this delectable desert is a reading list in which Mr. Perdu himself takes the readers as his patients and provides them with prescriptions for their emotional ills.

If there was ever such a thing as “the perfect book,” this is it.  It is my Southern Lights.  For me, it was exactly the right book at exactly the right time; although I suspect that any time for me would be the right time for this novel.  The ONLY negative I can give is that I wish I spoke German so I could read all the books on Jean’s list!

The Blogger Recognition Award

Thank you, Sumaya , for nominating me!

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1. Select 15 other blogs you want to give this award to. Do some digging if you must! Find those blogs. You cannot nominate yourself or the person who has nominated you.

2. Write a post to show off your award! Give a brief story of how your blog got started, and give a piece or two advice to new bloggers. List who nominated you in your post. Make sure to attach the award yourself!

3. Comment on each blog to let them know you’ve nominated them. Provide a link to your award post.

4. Provide a link to the original post on Edge of Night. This way, anyone can find the original post if needed, and we can keep it from mutating and becoming confusing!

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Why I started blogging:

Honestly, I don’t know why I started blogging.  I think part of it was because it allows me to extend my stay in the worlds of my books.  I always have this profound sadness, almost a feeling of grief, when I finish a really great book.  I hate to leave the characters and lives that I’ve come to know and love so well.  Writing about them allows me to experience them for just a little bit longer.  Also, I really enjoy writing.  I don’t have the background or credentials to do it professionally, so blogging provides me with a great outlet.

Advice:

I’m a new blogger myself, so I don’t know how qualified I am to give advice to new bloggers, but I’ll give it a shot!

  1. Be yourself.  I know it sounds cliche, BUT, it’s the best advice I can give.  Don’t apologize for how you feel or what you write.  Write what you think and don’t think twice about it.  People read your blog because they want to hear what YOU have to say, not what you think they want you to say.  Are you sarcastic? Great! A hopeless romantic? Tell us about it! Have no fear and love yourself.  If you can do that, others will love you too!
  2. DON’T post on every outlet you can find for people to follow your blog.  No offense honey, but it’s obnoxious.  Tell us what you and your blog are about, and let us make our own decisions. “OMG FOLLOW FOR FOLLOW” is more likely to repel new readers and followers than it is to attract them.

For the Blogger Recognition Award, I nominate:

Reading Rachel
Bookshelf Fantasies
We Read That Too
The Book Venom
[Incompetent] Writer
Neville Bookbottom
Sam Still Reading
In Libris Veritas
Shelf Pickings
The Girl Who Read Too Much
Dingbat and Dollface
The Bibliotheque
Raeleigh Reads
Girl, 20
Big City Bookworm

Happy Booking!!!

What the HECK Did I Just Read?: An Obscure Journey Through Time with Foop!

2 Stars“A surreal pie in the face.” So touts Christopher Moore on the front cover of Foop!, an aptly categorized “bizzaro fiction” novel by Chris Genoa. I’m inclined to agree with the pie comment, if for no other reason than I felt like I was being punk’d the entire time I was reading this book. It reminded me of something one of my high school or college peers would have written during a particularly intense experience with a psychotropic drug.

This is not to say I didn’t enjoy this book. After reading “Emily and Einstein,” I needed a good laugh. I definitely got it here. The main character, (Average) Joe, works for Dactyl, Inc., a time-travel tourism company operating in the not-so-distant future. Joe is tasked with the responsibility of traveling back in time and discovering who is torturing younger versions of his boss (who not so secretly hates him) in weird and disturbing ways. He does so with the assistance of a cast of not-so-average characters, including a blind, hog-tying chimp.

The story follows Joe and his quest in such a way that the reader can’t help but laugh in spite of themselves. I was confused through much of the book, but still found myself laughing uncontrollably or picking up my phone to text my friends quotes that literally had me holding my bladder (one, in particular, involving bright beams of light and sexually depraved leprechauns.) For much of the book, Joe’s internal dialogue, in its crass and self-deprecating manner, reminded me of Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, but with the over-arching “what the hell?” the reader often experiences when reading Chuck Palahniuk.

Foop! took me an unusually long time to read. I found that if I was tired, or in an environment where I wasn’t able to give the book my full, undivided attention, I’d find myself plodding along, only to have to flip back several pages because I had no idea what was going on. While it is intended to be a social commentary and a dystopian examination of how we as a society could end up if we continue on our current path, only in the last 20 pages or so does anything come together and Foop! begin to make sense. However, by the time you reach that point, your perception of “sense” has been distorted beyond recognition by the rest of the story.

While this book may not have been entirely my cup of tea, it definitely had is merits. As I said, it was side-splittingly funny and Chris Genoa has a style that, while reminiscent of other writers, is completely 100% his own. If you’re in the mood to simultaneously scratch your head, hold your bladder, and resist the urge to vomit, I suggest you give Foop! a try.

Obsoletion vs. Sentimentality: I’ll Stick with My Books.

I am a true bibliophile in every sense of the word.  There is nothing on this earth that I love more than going to my book room at the end of a long work day; immersing myself in the wonderful smell of paper and glue, and that mystery (musty?) smell that has permeated every corner.  I love sitting back in my lazy chair and simply admiring the beautiful covers that hold within them secrets and worlds that I have yet to discover and stories and characters I’ve met in my literary journeys that remain in my memory as my faithful companions and friends.

Too often books are used simply as props; decorations in a home that match a specific color scheme, or rows of books that are used to simply make the possessor appear more educated and worldly than they actually are.  Even The Strand bookstore in New York City, which many would consider to be the literary mecca of the western world (the city, not the store), sells books by the foot according to your preferred color and binding type.

Much of this, dare I say, sacrilege comes at the hand of the advent of the e-reader.  Don’t get me wrong; I do own a Kindle (actually two,) and they do have their place.  E-readers are great for public transportation, and when you have to fly somewhere and are required to have your luggage adhere to the dreaded weight limit.  Beyond that, the e-reader does little to quench my literary thirst.  Sure, you can carry hundreds or thousands of books with you wherever you go, but what about when you don’t know exactly what you want to read next?  I find it so much more fulfilling to go to my shelves, browse intriguing titles, read the blurbs, and eventually, usually after an exhaustive process of elimination, choose a book.  With an e-reader, you often have to browse a “digital library” and know what genre or subject matter you’re looking for.  Choosing a book this way limits the reader to only read what they “think” they’re looking for, rather than making a discovery by sight that they wouldn’t have otherwise made.

I am a stalwart admirer of the smell and feel of a physical book.  Like many who lament the passing of paper books, I find a certain joy in feeling the pages between my fingers, being able to feel and see my progress as I read, and being able to go to a shelf and simply run my hands across the spines of my books.  But for me, my love of physical books reaches a deeper sentimentality.  When you’re finished reading an e-book, where does it go?  Back to the digital library? Back to the “cloud” that nobody seems to be able to identify or define?  When you finish a physical book, more times than not, it returns to its home on your shelves, to be re-read at a later date, shared with friends, or in special cases, passed down to future generations.  My great grand-father passed a year or so ago, and his books were his prized possession.  I was blessed enough that he found a kindred spirit in me and passed those books on.  Had Daddy-Bob been someone who preferred electronic books, I wouldn’t have that daily reminder of him every time I look at my shelves.

Long story short, I rue the day when the paper book becomes “kitschy,” merely a relic from a time long past.  My books don’t have batteries, you can’t fry the hard-drive, and I will hold them close, respect them as they deserve, and pass them on to those who appreciate them as much as I and generations before me always have.

Emily and Einstein: A Novel of Second Chances

4 StarsSandy, an inherently wealthy and pompous….well….jerk is involved in a fatal car accident on the night he plans on asking his loving and devoted wife for a divorce.  Faced with the jarring realization that upon his demise, Sandy is about to board the proverbial south-bound train, he begs for a second chance.  His request is granted, although not in the fashion he would have preferred.  Sandy is given a second chance by way of his soul merging with that of a mangy, if not ugly, dog named Einstein.  Einstein is nothing if not the true physical embodiment of Sandy’s soul; a true DOG through and through.

 In order for Sandy/Einstein to change his eternal fate, he must find redemption and make right the life that he spent his human years destroying in every way possible, starting with his relationship with his wife, Emily.  He must make a journey of self-discovery and think of and do for someone other than himself for the first time in his life.

 Although the plot seemed different and intriguing, I expected this book to be light and breezy, if not a bit on the “bubble gum” side of the literary spectrum.  I’ve never been so happy to be wrong!  This book is as much about Emily’s journey of self-discovery as it is about Sandy/Einstein’s.  It’s a novel of hope, love, and the survivalist nature of the human spirit.  It reminds the reader that anything can be overcome with strength, perseverance, and a little bit of faith. 

 This is a common theme in contemporary literature, but this novel did it with a flare and realism seldom achieved in other stories.  It had me alternately laughing, yelling, and at the end, crying like a complete lunatic.  I loved every second of it.