This simple, short book was honest, heartfelt and easy to read – in fact, I couldn’t put it down. Which is something – but not everything. In fact, it may have just been the short chapters, as much as anything else.
We meet Pat Peoples, the first-person narrator and protagonist, doing push-ups in his bathrobe as his mother arrives to take him home from a mental institution.
Pat is an easy character to sympathise with, but some of the other characters – the emotionally distant, football-obsessed father and the kind, wise little Indian therapist – were at risk of being two-dimensional stereotypes. But then again, as the narrator was mentally ill and saw his life as one long movie, maybe this was intentional and simply lost on me?
Even given his mental illness (which is never specifically named or diagnosed), Pat’s narrator voice was a little too childlike for me, and I found it difficult to imagine his previous married life as a teacher, as well as his present-day adult relationships. In fact, he reminded me of the boy narrator in Extremely Loud and Incredible Close, who many readers interpreted (while, again, it was never specifically said in the book) as having Asperger’s. I’m pretty sure that’s not the same disorder 35-year-old Pat was supposed to have, which I imagined to more likely be depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Maybe brain damage?
I enjoyed the book’s references to American literature through Pat’s eyes – including Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – as he tried to better himself to win back his ex-wife. And I really did enjoy this book – otherwise I wouldn’t have demolished it in two bus commutes. Next stop? A date with Bradley Cooper at the cinema.