I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Love May Fail by Matthew Quick
Also by this author: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, Every Exquisite Thing, The Good Luck Of Right Now
Published by HarperCollins on June 16th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Literary, Humorous, Family Life
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"It doesn't matter how I got here. What I do with the puzzle pieces that are now in front of me—that's what matters.
Save Mr. Vernon.
My three-word quest.
Why I'm here in this time and space."
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.
I am the sort of person who rations books by authors I love — but then occasionally ends up binging. A few years ago, I read one of Matthew Quick’s book and it was instalove for me. Yes, that instalove that we all love to criticize and be all well that never happens. Yo, it happened with these books. I became this immediate stan for Quick’s books – both YA and adult. In fact, The Silver Linings Playbook film was one of the first movies I watched when I was going through a tough time and it actually did help me. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is one of the few books I’ve read twice in recent years – once via ebook form and once via audiobook. So, when Love May Fail made its way into my hands, reading it was absolutely a no brainer. Straight up, Love May Fail did not fail to captivate me. It’s a beautiful book about the impact we have on the lives of others.
Love May Fail essentially opens up with character Portia Kane, a 40 year old housewife, sitting in the closet with her husband’s gun. She is thinking about how she’s really messed up the last ten years and how she is not a real feminist but wants to be. Her husband is a pornographer named Ken and he is about to enter their marital bedroom with a much younger woman and engage in some extramarital relations with her. Portia has the gun and is ready to shoot, when, after witnessing her husband in flagrante with another woman, she begins laughing hysterically. It is then that she’s all, no way will I ruin my life over this, and decides, instead, to leave Ken and return home to her Philadelphia suburb of Collingswood. There, she stays with her hoarder mother and gives herself a life mission. You see, Portia believes she can save herself, if only she saves her favorite teacher, Mr. Nathan Vernon. Mr. Vernon was basically one of those magical movie sorts of teachers – the kind who is unconventional with a gift. He changed Portia’s life and now she wants to return the favor. Only, Mr. Vernon does not want this. You see, he was brutally beaten within an inch of his life by a student and so, all the spark has gone out of him. With only a dog named Albert Camus for company, Mr. Vernon is living a quiet life of contemplation. That life is about to get flipped turned upside down, y’all.
You guys! Portia is such a tenacious main character. I thought I would feel weird about this book since I am like 12 years away from being 40 and thus could not possibly relate to Portia. As usual though, I am unexpectedly interested in and captivated by Quick’s characters. Portia has her work cut out for her – in saving Mr. Vernon. And it is not something that happens magically overnight. In fact, it is not even wanted, like I mentioned above. He just wants to live his life and she won’t let him. There’s a reason why though, and what happens is basically amazing. There’s small subtle moments that occur that add up to something miraculous. That’s all I will really say. Also, even though Portia has concerns about whether she is a true feminist or not, I would say that in this book, she is. She makes her own choices. She owns those choices and so, I would say that as someone who does care about the equality and treatment of women, Portia is a feminist and it’s refreshing.
You might think that based on my review that Portia is the only point of view main character in Love May Fail by Matthew Quick. You would be wrong and I would be misleading. In fact, there are four point of view characters. There’s also Chuck Bass. Chuck is living in one of those Philadelphia neighborhoods working as a bartender. He was in Mr. Vernon’s class as well, but a year or so ahead of Portia. When Portia returns to the neighborhood, she connects with Chuck’s sister, Danielle. Yet, there’s a spark between Chuck and Portia (also the two connect over Chuck’s nephew, Tommy). Chuck is awesome because he wants desperately to be an elementary school teacher and to give back despite some off years after high school — you’ll see when you read. Just know his section is great.
As for Mr. Vernon, well, his part explains a lot. You might read it and think wow, this main is a total Debbie Downer. You guys, if you were brutally victimized at your job by someone with no sense of remorse who is clearly disturbed, you might lack faith in yourself and others too. He has some serious PTSD. I loved his love of literature though – there’s so many Albert Camus references peppered in, it’s perfect. You should also know that Mr. Vernon is seriously considering suicide and so, that might be a little bit triggering. What you should know is that Mr. Vernon used to give all his students Official Member Of The Human Race Cards before their graduation. These were special cards. Some students tossed theirs. Others held on to their cards for years, keeping them in wallets as reminders. Unfortunately, both metaphorically and literally, Mr. Vernon had that drive and passion beaten out of him. You’ll see when you read.
Aside from Mr. Vernon, a nun named Sister Maeve gets her own section. She has a very special role to play which you will see when you read Love May Fail. And yes, I know I keep on saying you will see when you read, but it’s true. This is a book that is so special. I mean, I know not everyone has loved it, looking at various reviews. I did though. Part of that love is for Sister Maeve. She has so much moxie that she could be in Sister Act. That is how great she is. She is such a great addition to the cast of this novel.
It is hard for me to explain why I loved Love May Fail so much. Maybe because it does this great job of capturing the impact an educator can have on the lives of students without sounding trite. Maybe because there are some harsh realities shown within this book. Maybe because there was a moment reading when I had to take a breath because what had happened was so unexpected and heartbreaking. Maybe because this is a story of redemption for all of the characters invovled, not just Mr. Vernon. It is hard to pinpoint the exact moment that made me a card carrying fan of this book.