The Good Luck Of Right Now (3.5 out of 5) by Matthew Quick

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I thought going into this book that it was going to be a “Domestic Violets” type of situation and I was going to love the book unconditionally. For reasons not quite known to me, I really didn’t fall head over heels until 70 pages before the end. Maybe the continued presence of a Mr. Richard Gere killed it for me. That blame goes all on Ms. Elena Bouhoutsos, who was in love with Richard Gere’s movies and schooled Heidi and I while we were in high school. I used to call him “Richard Gere, He of Veneer” (In those days, in my mind, a heady insult). And then, as they say, the songs all made sense. But oh, when the locks all fell into place, you couldn’t find a more enthusiastic reader. 

Bartholomew Neil is 38 and had taken care of his ailing mother for several years. When she passes from brain cancer, he is bereft and assures Wendy, his grief counselor, that he’s not grieving. However, the fact that he is writing letters to Richard Gere, his mom’s favorite actor, speaks otherwise. He finds a form letter that Gere sent out to all his fans, that his mother treasured, and decides that he likes Gere’s peaceful attitude and Buddhist tendencies, and so he begins writing letters to Gere, discussing how he’s lost without his mother being there with him, his ongoing crush on the librarian (the “Girlibrarian”), how Pastor McNamee is acting lost and drinking heavily since his best friend (Bartholomew’s mom) passed, his grief class and newfound friendship with Max, a 40 year old man who’s mourning the death of his rescue cat, and trying to save Wendy from her abusive marriage, among other things. The letters, obviously, are a way of grieving. They are heartfelt and heartbreaking, yet Bartholomew keeps his humor intact. The letters, for the record, are the book. Every single chapter is a letter that he writes to Gere, recounting his life as it is now and as he wants it to be. 

The supporting cast is where I lost a lot here, because there seems to be some new craziness going on in every chapter. There is such a thing as staying busy to not think too much about things, but that lost a lot of the appeal for me. Wendy, the grief counselor, is introduced and hangs around for a few chapters. She objects repeatedly and loudly to the Pastor’s presence in Bartholomew’s life, despite the fact that Bartholomew doesn’t really mind him being there, and in fact, wants to keep an eye on him because of his odd behavior in wake of the mother’s death. (For the record, the good Pastor used to hang out with Bart’s mom, drink whiskey on occasion, and laugh like old school chums. He’s so broken up over her death that he questions his faith and “defrocks” himself in front of the entire congregation. One of the funnier scenes in the book). Wendy, on the other hand, is acting weird and keeps showing up with weird bruises and even weirder stories to accompany those bruises. Bart and the Pastor bum rush her home one night, confront the husband, and she shows up on the doorstep after, but despite having what amounts to a mental breakdown, tells the two to leave her and her marriage alone. Then she…disappears. It was odd to me that she has such an effect on Bart’s life after his mom passes, then she just up and disappears. So much for the helping out the man who’s grieving. I didn’t understand that. 

The pastor is an odd character. He struck me throughout much of the book as a child molester or someone who had his hand in the collection plate and down his pants simultaneously. I didn’t have a lot of sympathy toward him, until near the end, when he started discussing more of his thoughts on Bart’s mother and “God’s plan for him” (Bart). He seemed softer, destroyed by his grief over losing his best friend, and I softened toward him as a character. Max, the man who’s mourning his dead cat and bonds with Bart over their weird views of the world and their respective losses, is a funny guy. I thought, as I did throughout the book, that Max, as well as Bart, struck me more as lost teenage boys than middle aged men who had family ties to unbind. Quick wrote them well in that they both come off as lost souls, trapped in a time warp of family issues. The “Girlibrarian” (Elizabeth, for the record) turns out to be quite a piece of work, as well as Max’s sister(small world indeed!), telling Bart that she’s from a family of extra-terrestrials and is just waiting for them to come back for her. By far, the character I identified with most (likely due to my assertion that I am from a family of ET’s, not the one that’s been mine all these years), from her spunk to being quietly terrified of change that may take her and Max into a dark place from which they can’t talk their ways out of. All of these supporting characters quietly add something to the canvas. Well, except Wendy. She’s just a small fob in a huge cog of a story that continues on without the small blip her presence creates in the book.

The last 70 pages really did a number on my liking of this book. Before several things reveal themselves and things get weird on a Canadian road trip, I was ready to just say this was a pleasant book and give it a nominal 2 stars. However, those last 70 pages. I didn’t see several things coming, and those several things put much of my questions into a perspective hourglass and threw me back into a whole different mindset. For that, I knocked it up to 3.5 stars. I really did enjoy this, so much more than the other book I have read by Mr. Quick, The Silver Linings Playbook. That’s a book that made me want to drink a lot, and for no reason. I think I’ll decline. The movie was marginally better, if you eliminate “Pretty Boy Big Teeth” Bradley Cooper. That’s another blog. Anyhow, I am going to tell you, this was one enjoyable little book here. It’s easily read and Bartholomew is probably my favorite character this year. PS- If you cast this as a movie, I think Mr. Joseph Gordon-Leavitt would be awesome as Bartholomew. 

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~ by generationgbooks on February 18, 2014.

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