The Good Luck of Right Now

By Matthew Quick

(HarperCollins, $25.99, 304 pages)

Who is this author?

You may not know the name Matthew Quick, but you may know about the movie, “The Silver Linings Playbook,” which was an Academy Award-winning film this year. Quick wrote the book on which the film was based, and also has written several  young adult novels:  “Sorta Like a Rock Star,” “Boy21” and “Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock.” His wife is the novelist and pianist Alicia Bessette.

What is this book about?

Bartholomew, the protagonist of this whimsical novel about synchronicity, coincidence and “the good luck of right now,” is 38 and has never lived alone. When his mom passes away, however, he must finally learn to be on his own. Sort of. Mom was losing it in her final days and calling him “Richard.” When Bart finds a letter in her underwear drawer about joining the cause of freeing Tibet, sent by activist and actor Richard Gere, he begins sending letters to the movie star, deeply revealing letters that explain Bartholomew’s odd personality. And he is far from the only odd one in story: there is a “girlbrarian” he admires from afar, her nutty cat-loving brother, the spirit of Gere himself, a defrocked, bipolar priest, his helpful grief counselor and more. They become entwined and the story becomes a quest narrative involving a road trip to Canada to find  the father he has never known, as well as the Cat Parliament.

Why you’ll like it:

Whimsy often does not wear well over the length of a novel, but  Quick knows how to handle it in this sweetly sad, or sadly sweet, story. It’s not easy to write about people with emotional problems without being condescending or flip, but Quick avoids those pitfalls and gives readers a poignant story filled with unusual people and, well, silver linings, that most reviewers found well worth their time.

What others are saying:

Says Publishers Weekly:

 The newest from The Silver Linings Playbook author Quick is a quirky coming-of-age story about an earnest, guileless 38-year-old man with a dyspeptic stomach. After caring for his mother until her death, Bartholomew Neil begins adding to his writing repertoire—he already keeps an “Interesting Things I Have Learned” notebook—penning letters to Richard Gere when he discovers a “free Tibet” letter from Gere, his mom’s favorite actor, among her things. Told by his grief counselor that Bartholomew should find his flock, he believes coincidence is at play and begins recounting stories from his life to the actor, and soliciting advice as well. Bartholomew’s plan starts small: he wants to have a drink in a bar with a buddy and go on a date with a girl—hopefully the “girlbrarian” at the library where he spends most days reading books about Jung or the Dalai Lama. His motley flock slowly takes form, including the bipolar priest he’s known his whole life,  a foulmouthed paranoid grieving for his dead cat, and the paranoid’s depressed sister, who just so happens to be the girlbrarian. Quick writes with an engaging intimacy, capturing his narrator’s innocence and off-kilter philosophy, and the damaged souls in orbit around him.  

Kirkus Reviews’s starred review says: “Quirky, feel-good fiction from the author of The Silver Linings Playbook (2008). Bartholomew Neil describes himself as having above-average intelligence, though it’s clear his intelligence is unconventional and idiosyncratic. Neil tells his story in a series of letters he writes to Richard Gere, a figure much admired by Neil’s mother. The novel opens with her death, a great loss for Bartholomew, who has lived with her for 38 years. Now he’s bereft and alone, relying on the ministrations of Wendy, his grief counselor, and Father McNamee, a priest at the church Bartholomew has faithfully attended for his entire life. Although at first it’s not quite clear what his motivation is, McNamee abruptly “defrocks himself” to help take care of Bartholomew. In addition to caring for Bartholomew, he spends much time praying but also drinking a daily bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey, and by the end of the novel, it becomes clear that McNamee has much to atone for. Bartholomew is something of a holy innocent. He becomes enamored with the “Girlbrarian,” a woman he falls platonically in love with at the library he haunts. Through synchronicity (a key concept in the novel), it turns out the Girlbrarian, Elizabeth, has a brother, Max, going through grief counseling for his cat, Alice. Max, who can’t get through a single sentence without using the f-word, links up with Bartholomew through Wendy, and the novel switches to a road trip to Canada, where Bartholomew can supposedly discover a father he has long thought dead and Max can visit the “Cat Parliament” in Ottawa. A whimsical, clever narrative.

Says Wally Lamb: “The Good Luck of Right Now” has everything I relish in a story: a flawed but sympathetic protagonist, a page-turning plot, and a cast of emotionally scarred characters for whom I rooted wholeheartedly. I loved this novel from its quirky and unconventional opening to its poignant, tear-inducing conclusion.”


 “Life-affirming….Begins as a character study and morphs into a road novel, blending humorous set pieces-pack a Canadian hotel with UFO abductees and there’s bound to be fun-with poignant revelations about the novel’s main characters. It’s an unabashed tear-jerker,” says the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Library Journal says: “For 40-odd years, Bartholomew Neil has lived quietly in Philadelphia with his aging mother. In her last days, dementia causes her to refer to her son as Richard, presumably after her favorite actor, Richard Gere. In a series of letters to the actor, Bartholomew outlines his isolated life in funny, plaintive, and sometimes darkly obsessive terms. We learn of Father McNamee, a longtime family friend, who suffers from bipolar disorder and moves in with Bartholomew. Life-skills and grief counselors try to assist but have issues of their own. When Bartholomew encounters profane, cat-loving Max in a therapy group, he fulfills a long-term desire to meet the library worker he has admired from his local branch, who happens to be Max’s sister, Elizabeth. Serendipitous events like this help to cement Bartholomew’s growing belief in the phenomenon his mother called “the good luck of right now.” VERDICT Quick (aka “Q”), author of The Silver Linings Playbook, on which the highly acclaimed movie was based, has film rights optioned for several books, including this one. He has a rare skill in portraying characters with mental illness, which, when coupled with his deft hand at humor, produces compelling and important prose. Interest should be high; fans of Wally Lamb, Mark Haddon, or Winston Groom will appreciate [this story].

When is it available?

It’s our good luck right now  that this book is available at the Blue Hills and Mark Twain branches of the Hartford Public Library.

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