Naive hero pens letters to Richard Gere

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - Re­viewed by Kathryne Card­well

AMER­I­CAN nov­el­ist Matthew Quick’s sec­ond novel is a heart-warm­ing, funny, thought­ful and orig­i­nal com­ing-of-age story with an un­likely hero for whom read­ers will love to cheer. Quick had a solid hit with his 2008 de­but, The Sil­ver Lin­ings Play­book, which was adapted into an Os­car-win­ning 2012 Hol­ly­wood film. Like his de­but, The Good Luck of Right Now fea­tures a child-like adult male pro­tag­o­nist try­ing to rec­on­cile re­al­ity with the fan­tasy life he’s con­structed in his head. But his sec­ond novel isn’t just a re­shaped ver­sion of his first — Good Luck is unique and stands on its own mer­its. The novel opens in Philadel­phia in 2012, in­tro­duc­ing us to 38-year-old Bartholomew Neil. Bartholomew has lived his whole life with his dot­ing mother, ac­com­pa­ny­ing her to Sun­day mass, watch­ing movies to­gether and host­ing din­ners for their fam­ily priest, Fa­ther McNamee. When his mother dies af­ter a long ill­ness, he’s left help­less — he’s never had a job, paid a bill or even had a friend his own age. Worst of all, his mother’s ill­ness led to de­men­tia, and she spent her last weeks think­ing Bartholomew was some­one named Richard. Why Richard? When Bartholomew finds a “Free Ti­bet” let­ter from the ac­tor Richard Gere in his mother’s drawer, he be­lieves there must be some con­nec­tion. He starts writ­ing soul-bar­ing letters to Gere, de­tail­ing his strug­gle to cre­ate a new life for him­self. “Maybe you will help me move on to the ‘next phase of my life,’ ” he writes to Gere. Along with his thoughts on faith, fate, syn­chronic­ity and co­in­ci­dence, Bartholomew’s letters chron­i­cle his deep­en­ing re­la­tion­ship with Fa­ther McNamee, his crush on a beau­ti­ful but aloof “Girl­brar­ian,” his sud­den friend­ship with a foul-mouthed cat lover and ses­sions with a grief coun­sel­lor hid­ing her own trou­bles. When fate brings these char­ac­ters to­gether, Bartholomew just might have the chance to build a life of his own. The novel is told through the pro­tag­o­nist’s se­ries of letters to Gere, which move be­tween Bartholomew’s child­hood, re­cent mem­o­ries and his present life. There isn’t a lot of ac­tion, but Bartholomew and the sup­port­ing char­ac­ters are so in­cred­i­bly com­pelling that the story keeps mov­ing for­ward. While read­ers will feel sym­pa­thy for Bartholomew, he isn’t creepy, pa­thetic or pitiable — in short, he’s no Nor­man Bates. In­stead, he comes across as lov­ing, gen­uine and naive, but ul­ti­mately wise. In that same vein, Bartholomew’s mother is also a lik­able char­ac­ter who filled her son with good ad­vice: “We don’t know any­thing. But we can choose how we re­spond to what­ever comes our way. We have a choice al­ways. Re­mem­ber that!” Quick’s abil­ity to cre­ate deep, mul­tidi­men­sional sup­port­ing char­ac­ters is rem­i­nis­cent of fel­low Amer­i­can nov­el­ist John Irv­ing. Like Irv­ing, Quick has a talent for mak­ing ob­scure events seem pos­si­ble, even or­di­nary, such as when Bartholomew pre­tends to be Richard Gere to com­fort his mother dur­ing her dy­ing days. The theme of fate runs heav­ily through the novel, which is also pep­pered with ref­er­ences to psy­chi­a­trist Carl Jung’s the­ory of syn­chronic­ity, as well as luck, karma, Bud­dhism and med­i­ta­tions on faith (the Catholic Church in par­tic­u­lar). De­spite these heavy themes, the novel is thought­ful and gen­tly provoca­tive, not weighty or force­ful. It’s a won­der­ful read from a promis­ing au­thor. Win­nipeg writer Kathryne Card­well works

for the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba.

The Good Luck of

Right Now

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