This is such a wonderful, heartwarming novel. I can’t say enough how much I thoroughly enjoyed reading every word of it. The author, Matthew Quick, wrote the marvellous The Silver Linings Playbook, so I was really looking forward to finding out what quirky and heartwarming tale he was going to spin this time around. I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest; this is a truly lovely, inventive and whimsical journey into the world of an adorable man named Bartholomew who I fell in love with from the very first page. It’s warm, witty, touching and true, and perfect for those of us with romantic souls.
Bartholomew Neil is 38. He has spent his entire life living with his mother in a run down Philadelphia neighbourhood, but she has recently died from cancer. Bartholomew has no friends, no job and little idea how to cultivate either. Without his beloved mother to guide him, he is lost, and so he turns to his mother’s hero Richard Gere for advice, writing to him about his everyday routines, his problems and his innermost thoughts in an attempt to understand the world he lives in and how he should move forward with his life. Aside from Richard Gere, Bartholomew has support from Father McNamee, his mother’s priest, who arranges for him to have some grief counselling from a student psychologist, Wendy. Wendy wants Bartholomew to ‘find his flock’ and ‘leave the nest’, and encourages him to find ‘age appropriate goals’ to help him gain some independence. Bartholomew’s two goals are to have a drink with someone his own age in a bar, and to have a drink with the Girlbrarian, a young and pretty librarian he has fallen in love with from afar, but for someone who has never had friends and for whom the mere thought of talking to a girl is enough to bring him out in a cold sweat, these goals appear almost impossible.
Things take a turn when Wendy asks Bartholomew to attend group therapy. At group therapy, Bartholomew meets Max, who is exactly the same age as him and slightly deranged. To their surprise, they hit it off, and Bartholomew manages to meet his first goal. But his joy is soon tempered when Wendy shows up to their next therapy session with bruises, and Father McNamee leaves the church and moves in with him, spending all day drinking whiskey and praying to a God who apparently won’t answer back. The people who were supposed to help Bartholomew now need his help, but will he be up to the task? And can he manage to meet his final goal with so many issues starting to pile up on his plate? Using the wisdom of the Dalai Lama, Richard Gere and a belief in Jung’s power of synchronicity, Barthomolew is about to find that he is capable of much more than he ever imagined, and that the world can indeed be a surprising and magical place, if you give it half a chance…
This is such a clever, thoughtful and enchanting story that manages to weave many random ideas and plot strands into one beautiful coherent whole, in which several damaged people are brought together and are changed by the power of kindness, trust and faith. Matthew Quick’s ability to bring Bartholomew alive is absolutely brilliant, and I flew through the pages in my desire to discover how his story would resolve itself. If you’re after something that will entertain and charm while also making you think and reflect on your own life and the way in which you interact with others, then this is the perfect book for you. It’s just the right blend of lightweight and literary; absolutely perfect for curling up with on a lazy afternoon. Thanks to Picador for sending this to me to enjoy…and I hope you will enjoy it when it comes out (in the UK) in April!