Mental Illness is serious, which is why I think it is so important that Matthew Quick has made a career of writing good, usually funny books about it. The three books I have read all follow roughly the same method.
They are all first person narrative told entirely inside the head of the protagonist. They all have some wacky other characters and come to a sort of resolution without minimizing the real issues of mental illness. They all have characters that want to help one another and are generally likable. (Note: I know that Autism is not really a mental illness, but Quick is mixing it in as if it were. There are also three other characters that more clearly have mental health issues that are also a part of the book.)
In the Good Luck of Right Now, Bartholomew Neal is writing to Richard Gere. Bartholomew’s mother has just recently died of brain cancer. As part of her cancer’s effects, his mother thought that Bartholomew was Richard Gere, her favorite actor. So Bartholomew played along and is now confessing to Gere, seeking his advice and looking for a friend.
As the story goes along, Neal’s priest, who as always been a family friend (and we learn later suffers from bipolar) has left the priesthood and moved in with Bartholomew because he has lost his connection to God and thinks that Bartholomew will be able to help.
At the same time Bartholomew has been seeing Wendy, a student social worker as a grief counselor. That connection with Wendy leads to a connection to others, and eventually to Elizabeth, the ‘girlbrarian’ that Bartholomew has been obsessively watching for the past several months at the library.
I picked this up when it was on sale about a year ago (it is again on sale for $2.99 on kindle.) It is definitely the least favorite of the Matthew Quick books I have read. It started slow and it felt initially like Quick was sort of making fun of Bartholomew.
As the story develops and more characters are introduced, it gets much better. But still the plot is a bit weak. The big reveal toward the end was easy to guess long before it happened.
The theme of the book, “The Good Luck of Right Now” is a phrase of Neal’s mother’s. It is about living in the moment and allowing the power of the universe to work. It is basically the idea of Karma. While Neal is a devoted Catholic and his Christianity is treated respectfully, the theme of the book is not the grace of Christianity, but more how the universe brings about ‘coinsidences’ to balance good and evil.
The book as a whole, while not bad, is just off putting. I think some might like it, but it is not nearly as good as Silver Linings Playbook or Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. Both are far better books and I would recommend them first. If you have read both of those (or are willing to gamble since it is only $2.99 right now), you might like it more than I did. Right now 184 of 251 reviews at Amazon are either 4 or 5 stars so clearly many disagree with me.
(Also of note: one of the characters cannot put together more than two words without one of them being F**k. It is one of the guys issues that he is unaware of his surroundings or social convention enough that he does not realize this is a problem. But it is something to be aware of, especially if you are listening to this on audiobook.)