When I picked up Silver Linings Playbook, I thought, well the movie has Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro – the book must be good to produce that cast!
I opened the first page and dove into Pat’s world, where he was exiting a mental health facility and entering the real world. The twist? The incident that was the cause of his admittance cannot be determined due to his coping mechanism of blocking the event from his memory. Pat only remembers that the event is associated with his wife, Nikki, who now has a restraining order against Pat. He has no recollection of the event. Pat channels all of his energy into working out (obsessively), becoming a supportive partner and a man Nikki would love. Pat’s new theory is that his life is a film created by God and there is a ‘silver lining’ in everything. If he keeps up this positive mentality, he believes it will bring him back to Nikki.
The novel explores several of Pat’s challenges; from the journey of moving home to live with his parents, to the relationship with his therapist Dr. Patel and to his blossoming relationship with his neighbor Tiffany. Each experience highlights a struggle that Pat is experiencing and how he decides to cope with it. The worst part? He is pigeonholed into believing that he is the only one affected by his well-being. He cannot see past the fog of his own anger, sadness and frustration. He is in his own version of the dreaded s-word, silo.
I won’t hide it; this book was far more difficult for me to read than most novels. Normally, I fly through the pages, intrigued in the character, their relationships and the outcome. But this one, not so much. Reading the story through Pat’s eyes gave me a false sense of hope. It was clear that he was conflicted by his sense of reality and what was actually going on. The worst part was wondering what was going on in the other character’s lives and only having Pat’s point of view to read from. I wanted more. How was Pat’s mom feeling? What was his dad’s problem? Did he have mental health concerns that could have affected Pat? I know Tiffany is lying, why would she do that? Were they really going to work together? My brain often goes warp speed, and all the unanswered questions didn’t help!
My favorite part about this book was the awareness it brought to mental health issues. Although it frustrates me and furthered my belief that we don’t discuss our own struggles enough, it was awesome to be able to speak to mental wellness in general in the form of a book club. Along with #SAreads, my institution chose this as their book last month. The medical field is one in which mental wellness still holds a stigma. This does not bode well for stressed out medical students! Having this story as a venue to talk about our own wellness and programs for our students was enlightening. I felt a sense of relief; maybe we are uncomfortable talking about our own stories, but Pat helped our discussion along. For that, I am grateful and hopeful that there is a silver lining of our own.
This post was written by the lovely Sue Caulfield for #SAreads.