***Spoiler Alert: some spoilers are included in this review.
When Pat returns home to Philadelphia after some time away in a mental institution, there’s a rough adjustment period to say the very least. He’s moved back home with his parents; his dad won’t speak to him; his wife is now his ex-wife with a restraining order; and he can’t remember why any of this happened. If you’re familiar with the story line in Silver Linings Playbook, but a lot of this sounds off to you, it’s probably because you’ve seen the movie and haven’t read the book. Spoiler alert: the book and movie are very different.
In the novel by Matthew Quick, Pat has been away in a mental institution for about four years. In that time, his wife has divorced him and filed a restraining order, his friends have had children, and he has no recollection of what he did or why any of this happened. It takes further therapy to help him remember that he caught his wife cheating on him and then nearly beat the other man to death. But in therapy, he also recognizes he was a bad husband and that his ex had her reasons for doing what she did. With his focus on winning back his ex, he doesn’t know what to do when he meets Tiffany, a girl who’s just as crazy as he is… maybe.
Tiffany’s husband died, and that caused her to go on a bender of sleeping with many men. She pursues Pat but in an odd way — running alongside him most days, but not saying anything, following him around. But as time goes on and they become friends, Tiffany offers to pass letters between Pat and his ex-wife, Nikki. In turn, he must compete in a couples dance competition with Veronica.
Most of this is the same as in the movie, but the novel is much darker. In the movie, Pat has and his parents have a great relationship. Despite a few disputes, they are a wonderful support system for him, funny and happy people who still think the world of him. In the novel, Pat and his father do not get along. His parents separate for a while, causing his mother to drink. Not to mention, since the novel reveals Pat’s inner thoughts — it’s written in first-person — the reader also notices how many psychological problems Pat has. Even the plot line between Pat and Tiffany is different in the book than the movie. In the movie, Pat learns that Tiffany is the one writing letters to him and not Nikki, he more or less has an existential crisis. In the movie, he finds it romantic and falls in love with her.
The movie is funny, lighthearted, and has a lot of — dare I say it? — silver linings. The book has those silver linings too, but they’re more subtle and only come after the characters have been through an excessive amount of pain. Neither the book nor movie is bad, just different. While the book is darker, it makes the ending that much more powerful and satisfying, instead of romantically expected.