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Posts Tagged ‘mental illness’

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick  silver linings

Pat Peoples seems like the sweetest man on earth, but for some reason he’s coming home from a mental institution to live with his parents—in his mid-thirties—and he completely loses it when he hears Kenny G music.

Pat thinks he has been away for a few months. Actually it’s been four years. He thinks that he is experiencing “apart time” from his wife, and that if he can control his temper (‘it’s more important to be kind than to be right’), and stay on his rigorous exercise program and lose weight, he will win her back. Because, after all, his life is like a movie created by God. It will have the silver lining of a reunion with Nikki.

In trying to understand Nikki, Pat is reading all of the books that she teachers to her high school English classes. He’s surprised at how negative and depressing they are. As a former English teacher, I laughed at Pat’s comments on books like The Catcher in the Rye and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. They don’t have the kind of silver linings Pat expects form life, the kind that ought to be examples for kids.

At home, the silver lining also remains hidden. Things are not going as Pat planned despite hours of daily weightlifting, regular visits with a psychiatrist, and all that reading, Nikki isn’t back on the scene. But another woman, who at first seems like a nymphomaniac but is grieving in her own dysfunctional way, is following him on his long runs. Meanwhile, the mood of the Peoples household, and particularly Pat’s father, swings with the fortunes of the Philadelphia Eagles football team. Pat’s dad is emotionally distant and unforgiving.

So where’s the silver lining? It’s not the one Pat was looking for, but it’s there. And I loved going on the journey with Pat to find it. Good, heartwarming stuff that embraces dysfunctional people of all kinds.

High school housekeeping: I’m always hoping that high school students will read adult books because they often (though certainly not always) juggle more issues, have more challenging vocabulary and less certain endings—like real life. I think Silver Linings Playbook is a good choice for moving into adult fiction. It’s just slightly longer than the typical YA fiction, but shorter than much adult fiction. It’s funny. You’ll like the main character, the story, and the pace. You’ll like that you can compare it to the movie. In addition, Matthew Quick writes YA fiction as well—and we have his stuff in our library. He was a high school teacher at one time, and has a good sense of what entertains and informs you. As mentioned above, The Silver Linings Playbook has a humorous vein about the books read in high school English classes. I really think it would be fun to have a ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ class and read this novel first, then read all the novels mentioned in it—and compare students’ reactions to the book to Pat’s reactions.

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The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin   

Philosophers tell us that we have the right to work for our own survival.

What are the rules about helping others survive? Are we required to do so? Are others required to help us if we are minors and unable to help ourselves?

What if you never knew, at any time, what your mother would do next? Beat you? Drive into oncoming traffic to get you to say how much you loved her? Lock you in a house and leave for several days?

What if you had a mother so crazy that she would accuse an innocent person of abusing her kids?

The Rules of Survival is dedicated to kids who are going through just such trauma. It’s told as a letter from older brother Matthew to his little sister Emmy. Callie and Matthew—sister and brother—are several years older than their younger sister Emmy (who has a different father), but they have a common goal—to protect Emmy from their mentally ill, volatile mother.

When Matthew and Callie are at a grocery store one day, they witness a man about to beat his son. Someone named Murdoch steps in and prevents in. After this, Matt dreams of finding Murdoch and becoming friends with him. But his efforts lead to Murdoch dating his mother.

Aunt Bobbie knows that her sister is a bad mom, but doesn’t know what to do. Matt and Callie’s dad, Ben, thinks things can’t be that bad. And now the kids are pinning their hopes on Murdoch. Can he make the difference in their lives? And if he doesn’t, what will Matt’s desperation lead him to do to keep Emmy safe?

Though this is a quick page-turner, the looming question of when we should get involved to help others will make you evaluate your own life and resonate for a long time.

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