Book review: Love May Fail by Matthew Quick

Wednesday, June 3, 2015 Permalink

I’m reticent to make a big deal of the fact Matthew Quick wrote The Silver Linings Playbook because all of the press I’ve seen mentions the book/movie in any discussion of his new novel. I completely understand why, but am conscious that while ‘dropping’ the name of a previously popular book may draw in readers, it sets up expectations and renders everything else that author has done / is doing redundant.

In Love May Fail we follow the lives of a couple of key characters during a time of crisis. Portia Kane is the fortyish wife of a wealthy pornographer and she’s the first character we meet. Quick writes in first person so we’re in Portia’s head and I could not help but love her. A former feminist and aspiring writer, she knows she ‘sold out’ and finally had enough of her cheating misogynistic husband. Deciding against shooting him and his lover from her hiding position in the bedroom cupboard (as originally planned) she packs her bags and heads home to her mother and childhood home.

‘Home” is a place she’s avoided as much as possible in the last decade or two as her mother suffers from mental illnesses (several it seems, including agoraphobia and anxiety) and she’s a long-term hoarder.

Once back in her hometown she runs into a former school friend, now a single mother to 5yr old Tommy. Having happily avoided children all of her life Portia finds herself enjoying the time she spends with Tommy, and his handsome single uncle (Chuck).

love may fail

Portia and Chuck reminisce about a high school English teacher they both credit with changing their lives. Mr Vernon gave Portia the confidence to believe in herself and a better life; while his words and teachings helped Chuck turn his life around years later.

When Portia discovers that an ageing Mr Vernon is struggling after a classroom attack she takes it upon herself to save him. Indeed, she decides this quest is exactly what she needs to distract her from her own problems. Mr Vernon, on the other hand, just wants to die and worries about Portia’s reaction when she doesn’t succeed.

Quick (the author!) alternates viewpoints. We’re in the head of Portia, then Mr Vernon, then a nun Portia meets on a plane (in a drunken state when leaving her husband), over to Chuck and then Portia again.

I loved Portia’s voice and felt disappointed when we jumped to Mr Vernon. I was interested in his mental state however so eventually resided happily in his head. Chuck’s chapters started a bit strangely as if in second person and noticeably in the vein of a narrator. His section also did a lot of summarising and recapping so the pacing of the novel was a tad disjointed.

This book is very much about change and redemption. And fate.

When reading Love May Fail, one has to either believe in fate or suspend their disbelief and accept some of the coincidences Quick offers up.

The novel also touches on mental illness, drug use and family. Quick doesn’t pull any punches in developing his characters. They’re all flawed, but not clichés. They’re real and they struggle.

There are a lot of sad moments in this novel and I was a sobbing mess a number of times, but… ultimately it’s a feel-good book. There are a few hiccups getting to the feeling-good part, but eventually we do.

Love May Fail by Matthew Quick, released in Australia via PanMacmillan will be available from early June 2015.

I received a copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher.

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