Reviewed by Dawn Mirafuentes
THE REASON YOU’RE ALIVE
by Matthew Quick
240 pp. Harper.
Brutally honest. Profoundly beautiful. Extremely relevant.
From the author that brought us The Silver Linings Playbook, Matthew Quick is back at it again with probably one of the most compelling, hilarious, raw, and uncensored protagonists to date. Throwing in an ensemble of veteran war stories, sociopolitical ideologies, mental health issues, and complex family dynamics, Quick’s newest offering is definitely a hundred different feels in a heartbeat.
The narrative commences with the protagonist David Granger, a proud Vietnam war veteran in his late sixties whose post-brain surgery recuperation has triggered his deep-seated wartime memories in the hidden jungles of Vietnam. He subconsciously repeats one name while on recovery: Clayton Fire Bear, his Native American nemesis with whom he has unfinished business.
The Reason You’re Alive gives us a glimpse of how the skeletons of our past haunt us in the present and threaten to disrupt our future. It shows us that making peace with the ghosts of yesterday is just as essential as nurturing the present moment. David decides to embark on a one-time journey to find Clayton, close old wounds, ask the burning decades-old questions, and finally atone himself from his inner demons. This is also the closure he craved and needed for the tragic demise of his wife.
Matthew Quick adds a colorful layer to the narrative as David’s storytelling is unapologetic and beyond rhetoric. His strong Republican views (or so he claims) keep the book timely and relevant, although his unabashed opinions have strained his affinity with his very liberal son Hank. He tries to rebuild their relationship, mainly because of his granddaughter Ella, whom he wholeheartedly adores. The storyline couldn’t be as relevant as it is in today’s sociopolitical climate. No matter where your needle points at the current political scale, truth is, bigotry and prejudice exist on both sides of the spectrum, and whichever side you’re on, one thing is almost certain: DAVID GRANGER WILL GROW ON YOU. Love him or hate him—at the end of the day, his damages, flaws, and dents have all contributed to the no-fuss, full of cuss, almost always politically incorrect brutal honesty and raw emotions of one widely experienced veteran patriot.
Character diversity is another strong point of Quick’s work. Representation is vivid and well thought of. We have Sue, David’s genetically Vietnamese but very American best friend; Timmy and Johnny, David’s favorite gay power couple; his run-ins with the black community; and his surprisingly non-bigoted, kind, and compassionate thoughts on minorities and ethnicities.
The Reason You’re Alive also delves into the complexities and challenges of mental health issues such as PTSD and depression, and how they can become deeply entrenched into one’s psyche and family dynamics. Moreover, it points out the need to address these issues before the irreversible occurs.
In a nutshell, the narrative’s universal message is that kindness and compassion can heal all wounds, that kindness is the only antidote to rage, and that we can always choose to respond with empathy. Let our kindness reach even the very people who threaten us, and let this be a reminder of how love is unequivocally at the very core of what motivates us to breathe, to live—the reason we’re alive.
You are in for a tear-jerking, heart-racing treat. The Reason You’re Alive is undoubtedly one of the most profoundly moving stories of 2017, so keep the Kleenex within reach.
The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick is available at select Fully Booked Stores and Fully Booked Online.
Dawn is a former ICU nurse, but now runs a customized cakes and pastries business. She is into fitness, adventures and plant based eating. She has a dog named Penguin, and above all else, she’s still waiting for her Hogwarts letter.
Dawn is a member of the First Look Club. You can find her on Instagram @dawnmiraf.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]