A good friend of mine had recommended reading The Silver Linings Playbook. But since I had already seen the film version, I wasn't sure if it would be as good to me. Sometimes I really like not having the film actors' faces in my mind as I read a book. You know? Anyway, I was excited to discover that the same author, Matthew Quick, had a new book out, so that's what prompted this month's selection.
I enjoyed this book, although I thought it had that thing where it feels like nothing happens for the first half of the book and then everything happens during the second half. It took me a little bit to get into the story because of this. Also, it's written as a series of letters, which I liked. But it's a series of letters between a grown man and Richard Gere, an actor he admires but does not know personally, which at times feels just a little off. Also, based on Bartholomew's current life (living with his mother, with no job and no past job) and some of the stories he shares from his childhood as the book progresses, you get the feeling that something may be just a little bit off about Bartholomew. This can be sort of tough, as a reader, because I'm not sure how much I should trust the protagonist. Is the story he's describing to me completely accurate, or does he have an alternative view of the world so his story is not entirely true?
I will say, though, no matter what challenges Bartholomew faces in his life, I could still identify with him when he struggled with the little man in his stomach who often called him a "retard" or other derogatory terms. I know I deal with self-doubt, sometimes a lot. And my guess is most people do in some capacity. I sometimes feel similar to Bartholomew; I have a little, angry man inside me who constantly doubts my decisions and ideas. And this makes it hard to be confident at times.
Remember, if you haven't completed the book yet, you might hold off on reading the discussion questions below (and responses) as there may be SPOILERS. In case you care about that sort of thing. You can use these number prompts/questions as a jumping-off point to discuss. Or you can add in whatever thoughts you'd prefer to the comments below.
1. What about you? Do you ever struggle with self-doubt (a.k.a. the little angry man in your stomach)?
2. Did you find the characters in this story believable? We had a bipolar priest who loses his faith, a troubled man obsessed with cats who believes his sister was abducted by aliens, a young woman who had a terrible-sounding mother (feeding her daughter her own pet rabbits for a meal) and then experiences a lot of violence as an adult, and Bartholomew and his imaginary friend Richard Gere. Was it all too much for you? Or did you find the characters believable and charming?
3. Father McNamee is one of those characters who can only be described as complicated, right? He's done so much good with his life, being a priest and seeking to help others as much as he can. But then we also find out he abandoned his family for this "selfless" life. What do you make of that?
4. As the story unfolds, we discover the philosophy behind "the good luck of right now." When something terrible happens, then something wonderful is happening elsewhere, and vice versa. This seems to give hope when bad things are happening (as you can be assured good is happening elsewhere or will happen to you later on), but this is bad news if something good is happening, as you can only assume something bad is happening elsewhere or will happen to you. What did you make of the good luck of right now? Is it another version of karma?
5. What did you think of Max's assessment of Cat Parliament—the idea that these cats don't contribute anything important to society anymore but people still take care of them? Of course it's hard not to recognize how Max might think he and his sister (and perhaps Bartholomew) are like those cats. But also, what do you think of this idea anyway; is it kind or just mindless charity?
Don't forget in July we will be reading #GIRLBOSS, and Elsie will be our moderator. We both have already read this book and loved it! So we can't wait to see what you all think about that next month. 🙂 xo. Emma
I hadn’t had a chance to read SLP and hadn’t heard of this book but decided to give it a try. I struggled at the beginning, unsure where the story was going and the format. But it ended up being a quick read that i enjoyed.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is written in letter format and is amazing! You should give it a try. Also, The Silver Linings Playbook is different than the movie, so it is worth a read.
I have really enjoyed your book club this year. I have read along with you Longbourn, The Fault in Our Stars, The Good Luck of Right Now and The Goldfinch. I don’t comment (tried once but think my computer chucked a wobbly & lost what I wrote) but I love reading everyone else’s.
I really enjoyed The Good Luck of Right Now. I loved the chapter titles and how they seemed so weird before entering the chapter, but once I had read it I would go back and read the title and enjoy my new understanding. I loved the way Quick phrases things like “The-You-Me Richard-Gere-Of-Pretending” – although Bartholomew’s character might seem unbelievable to some I see and know people who are eccentric, live with mental illness or are on the autism spectrum who speak the way B seems to write and think.
Although the characters seem pronounced, and all very unusual people, I think what the book shows us is how we all long for community and to ‘find our flock’ – the people we can belong with. I work with teenagers and see & hear in their stories the difficulties that adults and young people face when trying to balance fitting in, with caring for someone who is mentally ill. People are often given up because they take too much work or are difficult to relate to because their interests are so weird/particular. I thought these characters were wonderful. I also liked that it showed people trying to good things, but not always succeeding. Human will means that even when we want to help people, we are still dependent on them choosing to receive the assistance we offer. Bartholomew’s ‘counsellor’ showed us this when she chose to stay with her abusive boyfriend. People who are outcasts of ‘normal’ society can find community together that just as meaningful and lovely. The complexities and eccentricities of these characters made me like them. None of us are normal, we are all unique and weird in our own ways.
I am hoping to read #Girlboss next month. – If you would like some suggestions, I read “The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared” by Jonas Jonasson and really enjoyed it. Probably the book I have enjoyed most from the past year. I would also like to highly recommend “The History of Love” by Nicole Krauss (wife of Jonathan Safran Foer). I reread it earlier this year and it is wonderful.
I loved this book. Thank you so much for suggesting it.
I did believe the characters-to me each of them was a little fantastical and absolutely human. I could see a bit of us in all of them.
Bartholomew’s point of view very much resonated with me-yes he had some challenges that I might not experience -but for someone like me who is doing her PhD in medicine and is meant to be somewhat intelligent I often feel like I never have a full grasp of what is happening in the complex world around me. Other people and their motivations sometimes puzzle me and I tend to feel like I’m the last one to catch the joke, the only one without the full story. And the little woman in my stomach makes regular appearances.
Ultimately this book was very hopeful-I would argue that those cats 9and those characters) still have a lot to add to the world:)
In my own work I advocate for people who face all kinds of challenges and I would caution that to label the characters as mentally challenged might be quite limiting. Everyone has their own unique gifts and unique difficulties. I hope eventually that we will talk only about support needs rather than mental functioning. Just my little rant:)
Thank you very much everyone who commented here. The reviews were so insightful and well written.
Big love to you all!
I guess I’m a little late to the discussion but I discover how much I love to talk about books and I love when I have the opportunity to do it.
So, I finished the book a couple days ago – can’t find time to read it in June (but I just finish #Girlboss so I’m on the schedule for this one – and at the end I realize how I can’t find Bartholomew a really true character. I really enjoyed the book, it’s was so easy for me to read and I think the amount of “bad things” that happened with every character was really good but on the other hand I feel that the author was not being very true with me. I don’t now, it’s my honest and simple opinion rather everything else but the main character is a little bit tricky.
But, I enjoy it so thank you so much for the “recommendation”!
🙂 Happy reading for this month to everyone else!
This was my first time joining the book club, and I really enjoyed this book and its complex characters!
1. I definitely struggle with self-doubt. Although nothing good ever comes out of it, it’s so difficult to ignore it and give myself self-love instead. I have to make an active effort to think positive thoughts about myself, whereas self-doubt comes out of nowhere.
2. I found the characters believable up until Bartholomew says in the end that he embellished a lot of the stories. I’m wondering what actually happened and what didn’t happen. I was aware when reading that Bartholomew might process some things differently than others because of some mental disorder, but that didn’t make me not believe him.
3. I’m not entirely sure why Father McNamee abandoned his family for his selfless life. I know that I couldn’t do that, but I’m sure it was a tough decision that he made and there were certain reasons behind it. I agree that he is a very complicated character.
4. I love the good luck of right now philosophy! I don’t think it is related to karma. I also think that the only thing that it affects is your own attitude. If you can see a bad situation as even slightly good because someone else is experiencing something good, it has a positive effect on your attitude about the situation.
5. I can see why Max was really excited about Cat Parliament, because he related to them in a way. I don’t think there is such thing as mindless charity, because they must have a reason to help out the cats. If it makes them feel good to help others (even cats), then I don’t think it’s mindless at all. I absolutely love cats so it warmed my heart reading about people taking care of them.
Can’t wait to read #GIRLBOSS!
Oh, i’ve been traveling and missed this discussion…hopefully not too late to chime in! lots of good points mentioned above.
-I kind of loved it that it was written to Richard Gere and not an imaginary celebrity because Richard Gere seems like such a random and fitting choice.
– I agree with Mary’s comment above that the use of the “F” word was distracting, and I agree that it didn’t add to Max’s character. glad i’m not the only one who thought that!
-One scene that really stuck out to me was when Bartholomew’s house got so trashed in such an invasive way. I found that so disturbing and couldn’t understand why they may have been singled out like that. Because he was “weird” (“off”, etc.)? Or maybe his mother was as well? Or was it just random? Any thoughts?
i thoroughly enjoyed “The Good Luck of Right Now.” i am reading #GIRLBOSS now, b/c it’s next month’s book but i’m not excited about it. i will try to read #GIRLBOSS with an open mind though, but my first impression was it is not a book i would have read if it weren’t for a book club, but thanks for pushing me to try different things!
my take on “The Good Luck of Right Now:”
1. self-doubt, yes. i struggle daily with it and have worked hard to train myself to ignore it and move forward with (fake) confidence. i even relive a lifetime of embarrassing moments all the time. i’ll be having a quiet moment and POP! a memory comes into my head and i relive the embarrassment. i don’t know why my brain insists on torturing me with those moments. i should be reliving happy, lovely, successful moments (of which i have plenty), but my brain pushes the moments of self-doubt automatically.
2. i found almost all the characters believable and charming. within a few pages of the book, i started telling everyone: i’m reading this really interesting book written as a series of letters from a mentally disabled man to Richard Gere! my sister picked it up now too.
4. i thought “the good luck of right now” philosophy was wonderful. i don’t see it as karma, but more of a powerful coping mechanism. if something bad is happening to you, you can concentrate and enjoy knowing elsewhere good is happening and your suffering is not for naught.
5. cat parliament is real! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Parliamentary_Cats
the moment i read about it, i was so hopeful that it was real and it is. i think that’s great. it’s not mindless charity. in a world with vegetarians, vegans, PETA supporters, and animal lovers, cat parliament is a sanctuary for stray animals. a seemingly, very fancy, no-kill shelter! it has my support.
till next month ladies!
I enjoyed the book but did take me a bit to get into it – the narrative became more comfortable and natural wth each chapter so it read less like a letter, which I liked.
Re: trusting the character, Bartholomew does say near the end of the book that he has embellished some of the stories to make them more interesting.
Thanks for the discussion ! 🙂
Just like you Emma, I found the first bit of this book a bit too plain and boring, but the plot is getting more interesting towards the end.
When I read this book, I couldn’t stop thinking which Hollywood actors that would suitable playing Bartholomew. His character kindda remind me a lot with
Theodore Twombly from the movie “Her”.
For me, the best part of the book is its happy ending. I still dont understand why Bartholomew is obsessed with Max’s sister though, but I’m glad that they’re seeing each other in the end.
This book reminded me of the movie “Little Miss Sunshine”: it was a bit dark, in my opinion. I was so preoccupied with trying to figure out if Bartholomew was on the autism spectrum, learning disabled, or mentally handicapped that I probably missed out on a lot of what the book was saying.
I thought the characters were really “out there”, but this is fiction and it made them more interesting. Matthew Quick did a wonderful job of presenting them in a way that you really cared about them, and you felt a connection with them. (I don’t think the “F” word in every sentence that Max said was necessary & didn’t really add anything to his character or story.) I found myself cheering for all of them to live together in Bartholomew’s house at the end.
The philosophy of “The Good Luck of Right Now” made sense to me. If something good happens, something bad happens to someone else. I think that’s just life…not necessarily karma.
This definitely wasn’t the best book I read during June, but it was different than the others. Thanks for the suggestion!
I ended up loving this book.
I really liked that the main character’s mental state develops as the story goes on, so you start in a judgment free zone with him, really believing what he tells you. If it opened up by saying he has mental problems and people think he’s retarded, you may not believe a single word as the story progresses.
I definitely think the Cat Parliament was definitely a metaphor for hospitals that aide the mentally challenged or homeless shelters (was I the only one who thought that’s what it meant?)…helping those who don’t seem to contribute to society but who are still here and need food and someone to pay attention to them (or “pet them” as the cat thing goes)…? That’s what I thought anyways.
I loved B’s trust of people. He knew not to judge, like you weren’t supposed to until you got to know the characters. Like, we try to like Wendy because we see her through his eyes…until she shits on that parade and reveals her true feelings (even despite her abusive relationship, her heart is mean).
Unreliable narrators are great though! They are more interesting, and feel more human to me.
I really enjoyed the book.
Father McNamee was a strange character. I wonder if guilt for putting others before Bartholomew and his mother was the cause for his sudden life changing decision of leaving the priesthood. He had to see what was happening to Bartholomew after losing his mother.
It was terrible hearing how Elizabeth’s mother fed her the pet rabbits. I have a pet rabbit and I don’t like hearing people tell me they are going to eat my pet even though they are joking.
I loved how Max, Bartholomew, and Elizabeth came together as a family. Family are the people that will always be there for you.
I found the letters to Richard Gere style completely ridiculous. I think it masked the believability of the characters, and was quite a distracting approach. I found myself thinking it may have worked better if there was an imaginary celebrity he wrote to or something. Although the ending was heartwarming, it was also very heavily foreshadowed. This was a quick read, and somewhat enjoyable for say a holiday read by the pool, but I’m not sure it really does much for challenging yourself as a reader. At the least Emma, I agree with your statements as to how the book helps you reflect on feelings of self-doubt, and the notion of an angry man in the stomach did resonate with me. I’m not sure I’d rush to read any more of Quick’s books, but thank you so much for picking this book so I had the motivation to try something new!
Silver Linings Playbook is one of my favorite books and I was so excited to read this one! I totally enjoyed it!
It seems like a lot of the characters Matthew Quick writes are sort of quirky but ultimately are charming in some way. I think everyone struggles with self-doubt and that is one thing that made Bartholomew relatable. I also really liked how all of the characters in the story were misfits and they all helped each other in some way.
I really enjoyed the book from the beginning. The structure is charming: we are reading letters that are meant for some kind of imaginary friend of the main character and that lets us have sympathy for him cause we become that friend as we read. This is a tool Quick uses to make us feel like these characters, (that in real file we might call weird, I mean, we know those characters ARE weird) grow into us, I was so happy for Max when they got to the cat parliament. I actually believe it has something to do with gaining trust in yourself when you come to trust someone else, not that it is the only way of gaining trust, but that undeniable safety of having your place and your people. Those cats have a place and people that take care of them, not like charity but a relationship that humans build with animals like cats, they don’t actually need you to survive, they can hunt or whatever, but you want to be there and take care of them because you like their company, I’m not thinking in a conventional pet-owner relationship but the feeling that I guess lead to that relationship in a beginning, like building a pack.
The good luck of right has something to do with that, with a pack-feeling but extended: Bartholomew’s mom was happy when things went wrong with them because she believed that meant someone else was happy somewhere else and viceversa, she was sad when things went well for them cause that meant someone was unhappy, so it’s not really about karma but about empathy, also because karma is diachronic (that happens as time goes: what you do now affects the future or is consequence of the past) while the good luck of right nows is synchronic (that happens at the same time: good happens somewhere at the same time bad happens somewhere else). So just as the people that are with you, the good luck of right now is there, is happening.
I think it’s a good book, like the others you have chosen for the club, and the discussion could go on and on. 🙂
I really enjoyed the book. I thought it was quirky and off beat. I loved that it was written as letters to Richard Gere. I found it a breeze to read. I liked that it was light even comical at the beginning, I found the Gold Finch to be so dark, I actually had to put it down for a bit.
1. I think everyone struggles with self doubt even those who come across as very confident people.
2. Yes, I found the characters of the book believable. They kind of reminded me of the toys from misfit island. They were each broken in a different way and relied on one another to progress forward.
3. From the very beginning I suspected Father McNamee to be Bartholomews father. I really cant seem to put myself in his place I dont know how he could live 40 years between two extremes of being a priest yet having a love affair. He is very much a complicated character.
4. I think the good like of right now is a positive way of thinking and making a bad situation easier to cope with. I think the concept of the good luck of right now is helpful to the growth of Bartholomew, it allows him to over come challenges and rationalize the bad things that occur in everyday life.
5. As a Canadian, I just wanted to point out that Cat Parliament exists, Ive actually gone to visit it while I was on a school trip to see the Canadian Parliament Buildings. I loved Max’s assessment of it, it is a beautiful thing that volunteers take care of the cats on a daily basis and that the citizens of Ottawa created a space for the feral cats to live and interact with tourists and society. I think that Cat Parliament allows the cats to actually have purpose they are no longer feral cats but an attraction and are loved by the volunteers who take care of them.
Im really excited to read the next book, as I myself am a clothing store owner and would love to have my company grow to the size of Nasty Gal.
I loved the book. I listened to the audio book and thought it was wonderfully done…totally recommend listening to it. It would have been perfect if Richard Gere had narrated, but Oliver Wyman did an outstanding job interpreting the characters and creating voices that fit perfectly for each.
I really appreciated the character development in The Good Luck of Right Now. Bartholomew’s honesty and basic desire for companionship made him endearing. Max drove me crazy, so I liked that he had no friends, but found Bartholomew. He was so abrasive, that only a guy like Bartholomew could find the good in him. And Father Macknamee? Well, he represents every person, at least for me. He had his secrets, but ultimately tried to live a good life and do the right thing.
Cat Parliament? Who knew it was real thing? But it was a beautiful fit in this story of “strays”.
Finally, I’d like to say that the good luck of right now philosophy was hard for me to accept. The way I was able to make sense of it was to think of it as the Yin and Yang of life…not so much as Karma.
I haven’t read or seen The Silver Linings Playbook, but it is now on my list.
I really enjoyed this book and read it in just a few days. I can totally see why some of you see the story as far-fetched, but to me the sequence of events was realistic, only seen through the eyes of a simpleminded character who watches the world in a mixture of anguish and wonder, adding layers of colors and exaggeration to the story.
I loved the character of Bartholemew’s Mom, and how they both took care of each other in their own ways. The stories she made up for him, about his Dad’s absence and the fake letters written to city officials so he could visit monuments (much like his future letters to Mr. Gere), were incredibly heartwarming. She had an incredible ability to see tragic situations in a different light and stand back up when most would give up. She reminded me of the Dad in classic Italian film “La vita e bella” (one of my favorites), who pretends that his and his son’s deportation to a Nazi camp is a complex, fun game in order to shield his son from the unspeakable reality. I really loved the concept of pretending in the book, this time not shown as a fake, hypocritical act but as a way to beautify life.
Oddly enough, it didn’t occur to me right away that Bartholemew was simpleminded, though it was hard to believe his voice was that of a forty-something year-old. It was interesting to note how he observes and is surprised by Max – that and the recurrent self-doubt he expresses show how conscious he is of his mental handicap. After I understood what made him different, I couldn’t help but picture him as Tom Hanks in Forest Gump and from then on, loved the simplicity and naivety of his storytelling. Does anyone else always imagine actors or familiar faces acting as the main protagonists?
Thanks for leading another great discussion, Emma!