Author: Matthew Quick
Genre: general fiction
Published: June 2015
Source: TLC Book Tours for review
Portia Kane is having a meltdown. After escaping her ritzy Florida life and her cheating pornographer husband, she finds herself back in South Jersey, a place that remains largely unchanged from the years of her unhappy youth. Lost and alone, looking for the goodness she believes still exists in the world, Portia sets off on a quest to save the one man who always believed in her—and in all of his students: her beloved high school English teacher, Mr. Vernon, who has retired broken and alone after a traumatic classroom incident.
Will a sassy nun, an ex-heroin addict, a metalhead little boy, and her hoarder mother help or hurt Portia’s chances on this quest to resurrect a good man and find renewed hope in the human race? Love May Fail is a story of the great highs and lows of existence: the heartache and daring choices it takes to become the person you know (deep down) you are meant to be.
So having read The Good Luck of Right Now and enjoyed despite what could be the overly quirky nature of the narrative, I thought I was ready for Matthew Quick's latest adult novel. I was wrong. Love May Fail is like TGLoRN in that in pulls a disparate group of characters together to act out an outlandish plot while supporting the book's central themes. But it's unlike TGLoRN in that it lacks the charming characters or writing to support the story and engage the audience. I wanted to love Love May Fail but in the end, I didn't end up feeling much about it besides annoyed and disappointed.
It's hard to engage in a novel when my character options are as follows: spoiled, privileged white lady, dead nun, morose ex-teacher with a fascination for Albert Camus (the writer) and Albert Camus (his deceased dog named after, oh I'm sorry, who was actually the reincarnation of Albert Camus-the-writer), and a genial but boring guy named Chuck who has loved the same girl -- despite not seeing her for years at a time -- for 20 years. This book is weird and it's not the kind of weird I could dig, personally. Portia never rises above her inherent privilege and is a mess for the whole book. Chuck is the least interesting POV of the bunch and it's because "nice" was the only characteristic given to him in over 400 pages.
And the length -- those 416 pages? They feel self-indulgent given how little plot exists in Love May Fail. This book is too long and too unfocused. Or perhaps just focused on the wrong aspects because it is also frequently tedious. People drink. Fight. Complain. Drama. More of the same. There are moments when I was caught up in the story -- that's how you know it's Matthew Quick. You fully realize the absurdity of what you're reading but you just don't care because it's so damn readable -- but they aren't as common as you would expect from the author of The Silver Linings Playbook. The humor is there, occasionally, but there's none of the poignancy from Quick's other books to be found.
There are kernels of a good story here, and I could see why, perhaps for a different kind of reader, this is already a good story. For me, it was just average and fairly unmemorable. It certainly wasn't to the standards I've come to expect from the author and the unlikely coincidences coupled with the overwrought characters made this one a hard sell. Love May Fail is unflinching and dark but with the lack of a substantial plot, but it wasn't enough to merit more than 2 stars.