Meet Pat. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure a happy ending for him -- the return of his estranged wife Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent time in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat's now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he's being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he's being hunted by Kenny G!
In this enchanting novel, Matthew Quick takes us inside Pat's mind, showing us the world from his distorted yet endearing perspective.
Pat has been released from a mental institute thanks to his mother and her lawyers but homecoming proves tough when his dad refuses to talk to him and nobody will even mention his estranged wife Nikki who is determined to win back. He is being stalked by a hallucination of Kenny G, and pursued by Tiffany, the strange sister of his best friend's wife. He is trying to get fit and read literature to make Nikki see that he is a changed man and that apart time should finish so they can be together.
This is not normally the kind of book I would read but I was pleased to enjoy it. Pat is a nice guy who is having trouble adjusting to being home. He has to come to terms with the shock that he has been in The Bad Place for 4 years, not the few months that he imagined and so much has changed since the. Even the comfort of his beloved Eagles is tough because they have a new stadium and new players that he doesn't know. It is the football that helps him reconnect with his brother, father and old friend, and gradually he starts to get used to having a memory loss. He worries about his anger issues and Kenny G appearing, his mother gets upset when Nikki is mentioned and he just wants Tiffany to leave him alone.
I had questions at this point. Did Nikki exist? I was thinking about the lack of photos and wedding video that Pat searches for. Was Nikki a girl that Pat was stalking? Is she a wife who left him? Did he leave her but doesn't remember? Why is he scared of Kenny G? What did he do to end up in The Bad Place? What is Tiffany's story? Thankfully we do get all the answers through the story and it was wanting to know all of this that kept me so interested in the book. I liked Pat as a person and wanted to know what happened to him.
Tiffany was a bit of an enigma. We know a few facts about her-her husband died and she lost her job after screwing around with all the men there. This is what Ronnie, Pat's friend tells him but I liked the fact that Pat wondered why Tiffany slept with the men-was she hurt or upset or angry at the time? What was she thinking? What was she feeling? Pat doesn't judge her actions but is compassionate about her instead, which I liked. And so begins a strange friendship where they barely talk but they both know what it is like to be regarded as unstable, to need therapy, to feel like outsiders even amongst friends and family. Tiffany is the only one who is blunt enough to tell Pat that Nikki hasn't bothered about him and won't come back.
There is so much to enjoy in the book-the strange friendship of Pat and Tiffany, the strained relationships in Pat's family, the bonding between strangers over a shared love of a sporting team, the interesting dynamic between Pat and his therapist Cliff. I love when Pat's friends meet Cliff's friends at the game. The Asian Invasion are brilliant! It was poignant and sad to discover Tiffany's story and it explains all her behaviour. And of course, finding out about Pat, Nikki and Kenny G was satisfying.
I liked the way that this book explored mental illness, not just through Pat but through everyone connected to him. The way Veronica doesn't trust him to be alone with her child in case he does something mad, the gaps in Pat's memory and how people are trying to shelter him from it, the constant fear of going back to The Bad Place, the obsessive behaviour, the therapy sessions, the ups and downs of mood swings, the anger and frustration of having an illness like this. IT was so well written and the characters felt real to me so I cared about them. That helps to enjoy the book so much more.
There is also plenty humour despite the subject matter. When he and Tiffany start training to dance, the Pat montage from Rocky thing is so funny. I laughed so hard at bits of this: 'Pat, will you please stop humming!' That just cracked me up. Cliff was lovely and his Asian Invasion were funny. It added the perfect lightness to the plot, as did the crazy behaviour of the football fans when they met each other.
I can't really say there was a negative to the book. I would have liked to know more about why Pat's father behaved the way he did but that is a minor thing. Other than that we do get all the answers. Pat refers to the plots of several 'classic' books so if you are planning to read these books, be aware that Pat tells you the endings! ie The Great Gatsby, Huck Finn, A Farewell to Arms, The Scarlet Letter, The Bell Jar, The Catcher in the Rye. So approach that with caution. Looking at the cast for the film, I am now really looking forward to seeing it!