I was drawn in by the end of the first page and raced through the book. Pat Peoples narrates the story in an engaging style.
Pat is in a mental institution, Collingwood, sometimes described as a neural health facility in the book. Pat simply calls it the bad place.
(We live in an age that has chosen obfuscation rather than description. Statutes dealing with mental health problems have undergone great changes in Saskatchewan over the 37 years I have been a lawyer. When I began practising law mentally ill people were dealt with under The Lunacy Act. A few years later it was The Mentally Disordered Persons Act. It then became The Dependant Adults Act. Currently I deal with The Adult Guardianship and Co-decision-Making Act. Whether the changes of name for the statute have benefited the mentally ill I have no comment. Certainly you can no longer determine the purpose of the Act from its name.)
Pat’s mother, Jeannie, offers him the chance to come home and he thinks:
I don’t want to stay in the bad place, where no one believes in silver linings or love or happy endings, and where everyone tells me Nikki will not like my new body, nor will she even want to see me when apart time is over. But I am also afraid the people from my old life will not be as enthusiastic as I am now trying to be.
Nikki was Pat’s wife when he was institutionalized and his goal in life is to be reunited.
Pat returns home. Convinced Nikki will want to be with him if he loses excess weight and becomes fit he obsessively weight trains and runs every day.
Life is challenging with his father, Patrick, isolating himself from the family and uninterested in talking with Pat.
At the same time Jeanie's love and patience with Pat is inspiring.
His friend, Ronnie, and Ronnie’s wife, Veronica, introduce him to her sister, Tiffany, who is also living with her parents and struggling with her own mental health issues. While far from encouraging her Pat finds Tiffany joining him on his long daily runs.
Wanting to improve himself as a person, Pat practises being kind.
His therapist, Cliff Patel, is remarkable at putting Pat at ease while he draws out Pat’s emotional turmoil and desperate desire to be better.
As Pat tries to resume life outside the bad place the passion of the Peoples’ men and the residents of Philadelphia for Philadelphia Eagles football brings Pat back into his family and community. They do not judge him as a recent mental patient. He is a fellow Eagles fan.
Quick evokes the emotional bonds of sports fans as well as anyone has ever written about them. Living in Saskatchewan where Rider Pride draws our province together I could vividly relate to the joys and sorrows of the Eagles fans. Even readers uninterested in sports must be stirred by the devotion to the Eagles.
Quick has created a wonderful character and voice in Pat who has returned to the innocence and simple intensity of youth. Yet Pat struggles with his return to the real world. He hallucinates. He has emotional outbursts that can be violent and self-destructive. He cannot recall lost years.
I found myself anxious to know whether this broken young man, so convinced there are silver linings in the clouds of his life, could recover his mental well being.
Having read the book I am now eager to watch the movie made from the book for which Jennifer Lawrence won the 2013 Oscar for Best Actress.
It is a book to be read when life is grim and dark clouds are all around and you need some silver linings in your life.
I will no longer doubt Jonathan if he highly recommends a book to me. (July 6/13)