Fun & amusing 'chuck lit'

By Matthew Quick
Harper Collins/Paperback/304 pages/$22.47/Books Kinokuniya/***

The Good Luck Of Right Now is a sweet little "chuck lit" story - or romance written by a man - which amuses and saddens without trying too hard.

Shy churchgoer Bartholomew Neil, the nearly 40-year-old protagonist, is trying to find his footing after nursing his mother through a lingering illness and painful death.

His grief counsellor suggests he set new goals for his life. These include speaking to "the Girlbrarian", a quiet book lover who works at the local library, and making age-appropriate friends.

Instead, Bartholomew writes letters to actor Richard Gere, feeling a cosmic connection after an appeal letter sent out by Gere's Free Tibet campaign was found among his late mother's possessions.

The next daring step is driving to Canada to meet his birth father, supported by the parish priest and a loud, foul-tempered cat lover from group therapy, who wears silver foil to fool aliens.

All is not as it seems and though most readers might spot the twist early into the book, following Bartholomew's slowly maturing perspective is part of the fun of the story.

This is Matthew Quick's fifth book, but only his second novel for adults.

It will appeal to fans of his first, The Silver Linings Playbook (2008), as long as they are not too put off by the similarities between the two.

Both The Silver Linings Playbook and The Good Luck Of Right Now feature a socially inept and slightly mentally disturbed man, who sees visions of a celebrity while trying to win the love of his life.

Apart from the celebrity being Richard Gere this time, not Kenny G, the main difference with The Good Luck Of Right Now is that it is slightly more predictable because there are fewer characters complicating the narrative.

However, Quick delivers a few short turns of phrase that took my breath away, mostly to do with transforming the Girlbrarian from a distant ideal into a flesh-and-blood human being in Bartholomew's eyes.

With Dreamworks developing The Good Luck Of Right Now into a movie, the author shows that being a formulaic novelist is often the best recipe for success.

If you like this, read: One Day by David Nicholls (2010, Hodder & Stoughton, $18.95, Books Kinokuniya). The ups and downs of a 20-year friendship and love affair are revealed through descriptions of one day, each year, in the protagonists' lives. Keep the tissues handy.

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