Love May Fail

Author: Matthew Quick
Publisher: HarperCollins, fiction

You know those inane thoughts that tumble through your head when you’re laying in bed unable to fall asleep, or zoning out in the car during a traffic jam, or while waiting in line at the bank? Well, Matthew Quick captures those and puts them into words on a page, and then sells them as books.

Doesn’t sound like a formula that works, but it does. It’s a narrative style that Quick has used in recent bestsellers like The Silver Linings Playbook (which was adapted into a film that won several Academy Awards in 2012) and the more recent The Good Luck Of Right Now (also optioned for a film). The upcoming film adaptation of Quick’s latest, Love May Fail, is set to star Emma Stone.

Every time I begin reading a new book by Quick I almost always regret my decision – jumbled sentences strung together, leaping from one thought to the next within the same line…. I start out confused but – also every time – it doesn’t take long to become immersed in the story, which ends up being pretty easy to get in the end.

Love May Fail is told from the points of view of several characters. We meet Portia Kane first, a woman who is coming out of a failed marriage to a serial-cheating pornographer, the man she gave up her dream to become a writer for. As she watches his latest squeeze undress him through gaps in the closet she is hiding in with a gun in her hand, she imagines bursting out and going all Tarantino on the duo.

The intoxicated Portia seems more than ready to act out her fantasy – and then her thoughts wander to her secondary school teacher Mr Vernon, a father figure who once gave her a card that read “You become exactly whomever you choose to be”. We then meet the man who encouraged Portia to write a novel, Nate Vernon, a man who talks to his dog, Albert Camus, about everything, including a suicide pact.

str2_neloveR_coverAll of Quick’s characters are pretty wacky, but what I love about them is that they are all a different kind of crazy, distinctions that Quick weaves together beautifully.

The third point of view is that of Vernon’s mother, Sister Maeve; she has been estranged from Nathan for years but now she has a fatal disease, and so reaches out and tells her story in a collection of letters to Nathan.

Long story short (to avoid spoilers), Portia discovers there’s nothing left of the idealistic Nathan who once inspired her, so she sets out to “save” him. Along the way, there’s an entertaining scene between Portia and her hoarder mother, a twist towards the end of the book, and an exciting ending to the saga.

That’s just the thing with Quick’s books, and probably the reason most have been optioned for the big screen: the chapters unfold and play out like movies, the characters are frustrating yet endearing enough to carry a plot onscreen, and there are twists enough to keep both a reader and viewer entertained throughout.

Quick’s writing is hilarious and emotional, and I found myself chuckling along with some killer lines as well as tearing up at the emotional bits.

He handles dysfunction wonderfully, building up the characters’ flaws but also making them likeable, appealing to the weirdo in all of us.

There’s a “real” appeal Quick’s books; they make you feel like it’s OK to be a little bit of an outsider, a person who makes mistakes, and someone who tries to make the best out of every situation. Aren’t those all moments everyone can relate to?