book review: Love May Fail

love may fail

Love May Fail By Matthew Quick.
Harper| June 2015|401 pages |$25.99| ISBN: 978-0-06228-5560

Rating: ***/5*

This is my first novel by Matthew Quick. Having liked the film Silver Linings Playbook, I expected to enjoy this much more than I did. It’s a quick read with resonating themes of redemption and second chances. Portia Kane finds herself at a crossroads. She’s in her 40s living in Florida with her adult film director husband. Of her husband Ken, Portia admits: “He wants to be my emotional pimp—the owner of my heart.” Finally his dalliances with younger women drive Portia to head home to her hoarder mom in New Jersey. Fond memories of her high school teacher Nate Vernon instilled hopes in Portia that she might one day become a writer. He gave all his students ‘member of the human race’ cards at year’s end with inspirational messages which Portia always carries with her still. Life intervened and Portia finds herself miserable and unfulfilled. Is it too late for Portia to pursue her goals?

Portia Kane: “How did I end up so seduced by money, living in a tropical palace of marble floors, twenty-foot ceilings, cathedral archways, palm trees, crystal chandeliers, lap pool, hand-carved furniture, and high-end stainless steel appliances—all of which make my childhood dwelling look like a mud hut that barnyard animals would refuse to enter?”

Meanwhile a scandal drove Nate Vernon to retreat to the Vermont mountains. After meeting and later corresponding with a nun on her flight home, Portia decides that to re-align the universe, she must convince Mr. Vernon to return to teaching. In New Jersey Portia encounters her former friend’s younger brother, Chuck Bass, a sweet guy who ran into drug issues in the past and now also finds himself buoyed by thoughts of their high school English teacher. The ex-heroin addict currently pursues a teaching career complicated by his shaky past. Portia and Chuck bond with memories for 80s metal and this elusive teacher–“What do you do when the person you admire most literally turns his back on you?”

Love May Fail dragged at times. There’s a high school teacher in crisis and a nun –so religion in plenty which rarely interests me. I’m fine with unlikeable characters as everyone in the world isn’t likeable to everyone but I need these unlikeable characters to be well-written and compelling. I appreciated the characters of Portia Kane and Chuck Bass and would have preferred the entire novel told from their points-of-view. I found myself skimming the high school teacher and nun chapters. This isn’t the type of novel where the author writes short chapters from varying viewpoints. Instead we don’t get to Mr. Vernon until part two 100 pages in and carry on with him for about 100 pages. When Mr. Vernon thinks that his dog is Albert Camus reincarnated and begins talking to him, it’s a tongue-in-cheek existentialism moment for the novel and it just went too far. More moments could’ve been explored instead—Portia’s hoarder mom for instance.

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Harper Collins.

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