Book Review: The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick
by Matthew Quick
I read the first line of this book and knew I had to keep reading: “Dear Mr. Richard Gere.”
I mean, how could you not keep reading after that?
The main character, Bartholomew Neil, is a 38-year-old who lived with his mother his whole life. After her death, Bartholomew finds a “Free Tibet” letter from Richard Gere in his mother’s drawer, and this letter sets off the sequence of events that leads Bartholomew to stretch beyond his geographical and relationship boundaries. We readers learn about the events through letters Bartholomew writes to his mother’s hero, Richard Gere.
His mother had a theory—the “Good Luck of Right Now” theory.
By her theory, when someone wins, someone else has to lose, and if some people get rich, others must stay poor. By her theory, in order for one person to be considered smart, others must be average or below intelligence, and the beautiful can only be considered so if there are homely people by which to compare them. In other words, one person’s joy is another’s suffering. When good things happened to Bartholomew and his mother, she says: “I feel sorry for whoever is getting screwed to balance all this out.” The Good Luck of Right Now comes from believing that when bad things happen to you, you can celebrate that someone somewhere is having a great day.
“Believing—or maybe even pretending—made you feel better about what had happened, regardless of what was true and what wasn’t.”
Armed with this theory, a little Catholicism, some Richard Gere Buddhism and the unus mundus (One World/One Mind) philosophy of Carl Jung, Bartholomew makes his way through life without the mother who raised him, loved him and protected him. His journey takes him away from his hometown Philadelphia north to Montreal and then Ottawa. (I’m from Ottawa, so I delighted in Bartholomew’s visit to Cat Parliament on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill even though, sadly, it’s no longer there.)
There isn’t a “normal” character in this book. They could open a “Dysfunctions R Us” store. But they are all endearing in their own cracked ways. Quick manages to make likable characters out of a socially awkward 38-year-old, a damaged social worker, an alcoholic Catholic priest, a traumatized library volunteer and her potty-mouthed brother.
Matthew Quick consulted some Canadian friends about our country, so maybe I shouldn’t quibble about the stereotypical “eh” sprinkled through the language during the Canadian portion of Bartholomew’s travels. I can only guess those Canadian friends gave him different advice than I would give. Personally, I think references to “eh” weren’t necessary, didn’t add anything to the story, and they set my teeth on edge just a little. Quick tries redeem himself by acknowledging that “That’s a stereotype that will offend the locals.” Right, so why even go there?
But non-Canadians won’t be bothered by such things—or might even have a laugh at our expense—so they can read gamely on without clenched teeth. They can adopt some of those Buddhist and Jungian philosophies and go along on Quick’s mystical ride.
And if they don’t like the book, they can take some comfort in believing that, by the Good Luck of Right Now theory, someone else somewhere is really enjoying a good read.
Posted on April 16, 2014, in Book Club, Book reviews, Books for the beach, Books I borrowed, Fiction, HarperCollins and tagged Buddhism, Carl Jung, Cat Parliament, Matthew Quick, Richard Gere, unus mundus. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.