Let us begin with a quote from the book as it beautifully summarizes the theme of The Silver Linings Playbook.
“Life is not a PG feel-good movie. Real life often ends badly [...]. And literature tries to document this reality, while showing us it is still possible for people to endure nobly.”
In my mind, the author does just that: telling us a story through Pat who believes that his life is a movie produced by God. With vigorous exercise and good behavior, God will eventually grant him a happy ending. One that reunites him with his wife Nikki. The story begins with Pat discharging from the mental institution – which he calls “bad place” – and slowly integrating back to his old life: his emotionally unstable father, his ever-loving mother, always-supportive brother, and best friend. No one tells him how long he has been away. He has no recollection on why he was locked up in the “bad place” and what has happens to his marriage. All he knows is that between Nikki and him, they are on “apart time”. His goal in life is to see through the end of “apart time” so that he can see his wife again.
Except, life is not as simple. There are good reasons why his mother has put away all his wedding photos, no one around him wants to mention Nikki, and Pat is having a hard time catching up what he has missed during his stay in the “bad place”.
It hurts to look at the clouds, but it also helps, like most things that cause pain. So I need to run, and as my lungs burn and my back rebels with that stabbing knife feeling and my leg muscles harden and the half inch of loose skin around my waist jiggles, I feel as though my penance for the day is being done and that maybe God will be pleased enough to lend me some help, which I think is why He has been showing me interesting clouds for the past week.
In the mist of all these confusion and necessary adaptation, Pat has met Tiffany who is recently widowed and is also mentally unstable. Since the story is narrated from Pat’s perspective, very little is known about the intention of Tiffany. She appears to be mysterious, yet another flawed character. The extract below shows an aspect of her character.
When [Tiffany] turns to face me, I think she is simply going to say good night, but she says, “Look, I haven’t dated since college, so I don’t know how this works.”
“How what works?”
“I’ve seen the way you’ve been looking at me. Don’t bullshit me, Pat. I live in the addition around back, which is completely separate from the house, so there’s no chance of my parents walking in on us. I hate the fact that you wore a football jersey to dinner, but you can fuck me as long as we turn the lights out first. Okay?”
I’m too shocked to speak, and for a long time we just stand there.
“Or not,” Tiffany adds just before she starts crying.
The Silver Linings Playbook is engaging in a few ways. First, I have always enjoyed reading books characterized with flawed characters. Second, the emotion these characters are going through is complex. It is like taking a roller coaster ride reading this book. Third, the plot is unpredictable. It is hard to guess where the author is heading although there is a particular path I may wish the book would resolve. As a bonus, this book is so well planned that it may be worthwhile to read again and everything seems to make sense – from clouds watching to Tiffany’s abrupt entry to the story.
Back to the main theme of the story, The Silver Linings Playbook is certainly not a PG feel-good read. It is a heartwarming read reminding us the importance of stay positive and look for the silver linings in life.