The Reason You’re Alive: Funny, smart, and a lot of fun

You don’t know that you know Matthew Quick’s work (or maybe you do, and if you do, congratulations and high five), but you do. He wrote Silver Linings Playbook, made famous for its adaptation to film. I’d not read anything by him before, but J. suggested I read his latest, The Reason You’re Alive, and she’s rarely wrong, so I did. And wham bam! What fun! Okay, fun might be a stretch when describing a novel that considers the lasting impact of the Vietnam war on veterans…

But it actually is a lot of fun. Mostly because it’s so fun-ny. Our protagonist is an old man with a penchant for saying exactly what he thinks. The things he thinks are almost always stereotypes and, according to his leftie son, rasist, sexist, homophobic and altogether not politically correct. The novel does a fantastic job of explorin who has the right to say what and when and under what conditions, and the deep fear and discomfort that undergirds most efforts to say the politically correct thing. Don’t get me wrong, David says some wildly offensive things (that come across as wildly funny in the novel) but he does so in ways that force the reader to consider why such things have been forbidden and what the taboo itself conceals.

With first person narration the novel does extremely well in endearing the reader to our grumpy old man, David, as he sets out on his quest to come to terms with his experiences in the war. Except David probably wouldn’t accept a characterization of something like ‘coming to terms,’ he’d probably have some choice retort to that idea. That said it’s hardly a quest narrative, as it’s as much about his relationship with his son and wife as it is about attempting reconciliation and closure for his actions during the war.

I don’t want to say too much more, just that I entirely enjoyed reading this one and think you will, too. A bonus: it’s not that long and so you can have the full satisfaction of reading a brilliant novel in just a few reading bursts*.

*Depending on how long you read, obvs.

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Filed under American literature, Bestseller, Fiction, Funny

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