Book: The Good Luck of Right Now

"The Good Luck of Right Now"

For thirty-eight years, Bartholomew Neil has lived with his mother. When she gets sick and dies, he has no idea how to be on his own. His grief counselor, Wendy, says he needs to find his flock and leave the nest. But how does a man whose whole life has been grounded in his mom, Saturday Mass, and the library learn how to fly?

Bartholomew thinks he’s found a clue when he discovers a ‘Free Tibet’ letter from Richard Gere hidden in his mother’s underwear drawer. In her final days, Mom called him Richard–there must be a cosmic connection. Believing that the actor is meant to help him, Bartholomew awkwardly starts his new life by writing Richard Gere a series of letters. Jung and the Dalai Lama, philosophy and faith, alien abduction and cat telepathy, are all explored in his soul-baring epistles. But mostly the letters reveal one man’s heartbreakingly earnest attempt to assemble a family of his own.

A struggling priest, a ‘Girlbrarian,’ her feline-loving, foul-mouthed brother, and the spirit of Richard Gere join the quest to help Bartholomew. In a rented Ford Focus, they travel to Canada to see the Cat Parliament and find Bartholomew’s biological father…and discover so much more.

Quick judgment: the book is good, it’s easy to read–and it’s very heart-warming. To those who liked author Matthew Quick’s writing for The Silver Linings Playbook, but wasn’t much of a fan of Sorta Like a Rock Star, and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, would think this book is a return to form for the author.

But to tell you the truth, I didn’t really get the importance of looking for Bartholomew’s biological father. Not even in the end. But that’s mostly because, although we’re told that Bartholomew’s not right in the head for most of the novel, he’s actually a very well-adjusted guy. And that got me thinking–

We call people with mental disabilities ‘special,’ and this book underlines the fact that they aren’t unlike you and I. They might be handicapped, but they are able-bodied human beings too. They are capable too. They just have more to work through than us.

Or they’re not just as good as pretending they’re okay like normal people are.

And that’s the thesis of The Good Luck of Right Now, in my opinion. In pretending, how do we know when we’re fooling other people–or when we’re already fooling ourselves?

Quick posits early in the book that Bartholomew knows about pretending. He’s very honest about it. Apologetic, even. But over the course of the book, we get new pretenses from other characters. People who are saying something, but meaning something else. It’s a hard look at how we, as people, live our lives–always pretending, even in little things. Embellishing to make ourselves look better, or more humble–or just to not look like a bad guy.

The Good Luck of Right Now looks like a simple book, but it’s ripe for discussion; about our beliefs and our identities.

It’s something I would urge people to read–even if it’s just because I want someone to discuss the book with.

Book: Sorta Like a Rock Star

"Sorta Like a Rock Star"

Ever since her mom’s boyfriend kicked them out, Amber Appleton, her mom, and her totally loyal dog, Bobby Big Boy (aka Thrice B), have been camped out in the back of Hello Yellow (aka the school bus her mom drives). Still, Amber, the self-proclaimed princess of hope, refuse to sweat the bad stuff. But when a fatal tragedy threatens Amber’s optimism–and her way of life–can Amber still be… well, sorta like a rock star?

I have a love-hate relationship with Amber Appleton. On the one hand, I love how optimistic her character is. I love that she loves helping people. But then, I really don’t like how she expects people to thank her for things she’s done. I hate the fact that she’s, for the most part, a hypocrite. She doesn’t do good things for the sake of doing them–she does them so she could feel good about herself.

Which is why I have to commend Matthew Quick. Off the three novels I’ve read off him, I think Amber is his most realistic character yet. She’s not a perfect person, and she’s not claiming to be. She has insecurities, she has misguided beliefs…and yet, at her core, Amber is someone you would want to root for. Not because she’s always striving to be better, but because she also makes mistakes.

Amber is one of us.

And I wasn’t a fan of hers for around half of the book. There’s just something about her that rubbed me the wrong way. That is… Until the ‘fatal tragedy’ happened. That’s when I empathized with her. But it was also then that I stopped connecting with her. Because in the events that occurred after that, I became more invested with the characters that revolved around Amber. Like Donna. And Private Jackson. And Father Chee. Even the football jerks. Amber stopped becoming an active character.

I don’t know if it was designed that way. Maybe. Because emotionally? It worked. As Amber became the receptacle for help, a role reversal from her being the giver of help in the first half, we see the emotional pay off for all the characters who were introduced.

This is when readers with a soft spot for good deeds will become emotional messes.

But I don’t consider Sorta Like a Rock Star as a good book. Although I liked how Matthew Quick wrote the main character, and I liked how the story unfolded, I still feel like the emotional punch in the end was a cheat. Out of the three Quick novels I’ve read, I continue to hold The Silver-Linings Playbook as his best one.

As for other people though… Let’s see what they thought of the book:
The Divining Wand
What’s Not Wrong?
Opinionated? Me?

Book: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

"Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock"

Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It is also the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather’s P-38 pistol.

Maybe one day he’ll believe that being different is okay, important even.

But not today.

It gets better. I mean the book. It starts out a little slow, but as you keep reading, it gets better. And then it hits you in the gut.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I was crying in the middle of Starbucks (literally, in the middle of the store) while reading this book. I guess you can say that Leonard Peacock speaks to me. Well, the subject matter at least.

No, I’m not suicidal. I think I need to write that down first. I’ve never been. I’m not well-adjusted. Not even a little bit. But, and I think I’ve written this down before, I’m way too much of a coward to even think about offing myself. And I’m way too paranoid that things would go wrong in the process, that I wouldn’t die and would have to live with a deformity for the rest of my life. I’m not kidding.

And I know I can’t dictate, but suicidal people should keep that in mind. Things can go wrong. And then what?

But, going back to the novel, Leonard Peacock isn’t suicidal either. At least, he isn’t to me. He’s a man with a plan: kill his former best friend, and then himself. He’s just trying to keep things in order.

Before you write me off as sick and deranged, I do not condone what Leonard Peacock is attempting to do. Killing is wrong. But reading Leonard’s life, you can’t blame the guy for what he wants to do.

It’s not easy to live a life without parents. Parents are supposed to be your guides, the beacon in this big world we live in. When they’re absent, whether mentally or physically, we get lost. And although a lot of us make it out okay in the end, many would lose hope. Many would turn out the way Leonard does.

But that reality by itself doesn’t make a good book. Why the novel worked for me was because author Matthew Quick didn’t pretend that things will get better. Which is ironic, seeing as how the book got better the more real it became.

Things don’t get better, but we become stronger. We work on becoming stronger. And I like how Quick has a character who imparts this. Who actually spells it out. I like how the novel doesn’t end with an ending wrapped up nicely with a bow. I feel like this is something more books should do: be real.

I know that books are supposed to be an escape. But there are times when books give us too much unreal expectations in life that we keep holding out for something better. That forces us to live more in books instead of outside in the real world. And while I’m all for more reading, I don’t want it to be at the expense of an actual life being lived.

It helps when there are novels like this that exist. Novels that remind us that if we want a good life, we have to work for it. That we have to work hard for it. That we have to get back to it.

And I think this whole post got away from me.

For a clearer perspective on the novel, let’s check out what the other netizens are saying about the book:
Helen’s Book Blog
The Tracery of Ink

the silver linings play book

"the silver linings play book" by matthew quicki actually wasn’t planning on reading this yet. i bought this together with INSTRUCTIONS FOR LIVING SOMEONE ELSE’S LIFE and A PAGE OUT OF LIFE with the intention of putting it on my book pile–which is basically a pile of books that i’ll be reading once a week. while waiting for other books to arrive.

right now, i only have two books left on my book pile: the already mentioned A PAGE OUT OF LIFE and DALEK I LOVED YOU.

but what made this book a sudden must-read? it’s actually the blurb that got me–and then the promise of a total eclipse of the heart number in page-form? well, i was hooked. and i finished the whole thing in a matter of hours.

before i talk about the book, here’s a little backgrounder:

Imagine that your life is a film directed by God. A romcom, obviously, complete with happy-ever-after ending. Before the credits roll, there will, of course, be tears, tantrums and misunderstandings, but you know you’ll get there–and get your girl–in the end.

Welcome to Pat’s world.

It’s a world of silver linings and true love, but also a world where God makes movies and Kenny G lurks in your attic–and when Pat inadvertently befriends the tragic Tiffany, he begins to question whether or not he might just have got the genre wrong.

who wouldn’t be intrigued with a blurb like that?

and so, after arriving completely knackered from the milo marathon, i decided to have some downtime–and read the book. and i couldn’t stop turning the pages. i notice that first-person books usually are page-turners for me. of course there are exceptions, but for the most part this holds true. like with this book. now that we’ve established that–

the book is about a character named pat who was just released from a mental institution–a bad place. and the whole book is his journey to getting better and reuniting with his one true love. but along the way, he is met with conflicts and trials and roadblocks from his family, his friends, and this girl named tiffany who he can’t seem to place if she likes him or not.

it’s definitely a feel-good book, with a feel-good attitude on a not-so-great life. the author, matthew quick, actually discusses the theme of his book through other literary classics: like THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, THE BELL JAR, A FAREWELL TO ARMS and THE SCARLET LETTER. a warning, actually, if you haven’t read any of those books and plan on reading them in the future: this book contains spoilers on how they all end. but going back:

the theme of the book is this: life is generally tough on everyone. sure there are a lucky few who get their dream lives with their dream wives and their dream houses and their dream jobs, but for the most of us, life’s just life. and while books are one form of escape from reality, it’s also a mirror of reality–of people who are going through the same things we are, except they’re trying to be better people. but THE SILVER LINING PLAY BOOK masks this with unbridled optimism, that you can’t help but root for the ending your protagonists wants, even as you know in your heart that it’s not the ending he’s gonna get.

so yeah, THE SILVER LINING PLAY BOOK is a great read. and it’s something i’ll definitely be recommending for friends–and random strangers–to read.