Love May Fail is the latest novel by Matthew Quick, author of The Silver Linings Playbook. It is a uniquely written and quirky book about change, getting what you need, hope and love that, while the road may be a bit bumpy, makes for an enjoyable journey.
Portia Kane has had enough of her cheating, millionaire, pornographer husband, and, after deciding not to shoot him and his lover from her bedroom closet, she packs her bags and leaves. She heads to her childhood home in Philadelphia – a place she has avoided for years.
Portia soon runs in to an old school friend and her brother, Chuck. When Portia and Chuck start reminiscing about their high school English teacher, she realises that she was not the only one whose life was changed by Mr. Vernon all those years ago. She also learns that Mr. Vernon’s life was changed, and not for the better, when he was badly attacked in the classroom by a student. Since then, nobody’s heard of him. In an effort to avoid her own problems, Portia decides to save Mr. Vernon, a man who has given up on everything and is ready to die.
Quick offers up the story from four different points of view: Portia, Mr. Vernon, a nun (that Portia met on the plane home), and Chuck. What I enjoyed about Quick’s use of this device is that he offers up entire portions of the book to each of these characters. This meant I could get quite comfortable with each of their voices and grow equally familiar with their individual characters, enabling me to be drawn deeper into the overall story.
It is in his characterisation that Quick always shines, and Love May Fail is no exception. I could feel Mr. Vernon’s utter despair, Portia’s dispassion, and Chuck’s hopefulness as if they were my own. He writes about very real people with real struggles in a very tangible way. I want to see their stories out, and all the while I’m hoping for their happy endings.
The book also touches on mental illness and drug addiction. There’s Portia’s mother, a hoarder and agoraphobe, and her decades long obsession with filling her house with “stuff”. There’s Chuck’s sister’s drug abuse, happening under the nose of her little boy, Tommy, as well as Chuck’s own history of, and recovery from, addiction. Mr. Vernon suffers from depression and is suicidal. The reader experiences these issues in a way that feels like you’re looking through the windows of the characters’ houses and witnessing their conditions – and how they affect those around them – like a fly on the wall. Herein lies Quick’s skill as a writer.
For me, where this novel fell short, was in its pace. While the book started off strong, I felt that, from about a third of the way through, it began to lag before picking up the pace again later on. In one way this, perhaps, added to the “stuck” feeling of Mr. Vernon, but it also meant I wasn’t rushing back to the novel. Although they offered a unique perspective, I felt the letters from the nun (that Portia meets on the plane on her way home) interrupted the general pace of the novel, and I wanted to skip through them to get back to the characters I was getting to know.
Wrapped in the pages of this book you’ll find everything from dogs to Albert Camus to dogs called Albert Camus. There’s sex, drugs and Rock ‘n Roll as well as nuns, coincidences and a beautiful love story. Love May Fail will take you on an emotional rollercoaster – you’re bound to shed a tear or two – but will ultimately leave you feeling uplifted.