book club: ‘love may fail’.

by Michael King

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I read my first Matthew Quick novel – The Good Luck of Right Now – during a summer 2015 week in New York City. Suggested by a Buzzfeed article, the story captured me quickly with its compelling narrative (each chapter is a letter to Richard Gere) and interesting, deeply human characters. When my brother read Love May Fail, he quickly directed me to read it as well. Bringing it with me to New York City this summer, I finished it in an Astoria coffee shop, my eyes stained with tears.

“Portia Kane, Official Member of the Human Race! This card entitles you to ugliness and beauty, heartache and joy—the great highs and lows of existence—and everything in between. It also guarantees you the right to strive, to reach, to dream, and to become the person you know (deep down) you are meant to be. So make daring choices, work hard, enjoy the ride, and remember—you become exactly whomever you choose to be.”

The story opens with narrator Portia Kane, presently standing in the closet of her husband’s bedroom and holding a gun in wait of him and his much younger girlfriend. Soon afterwards, Portia leaves the mansion and expensive lifestyle she’s maintained, returning to the small town of her childhood and into her mother’s home. It is there that she learns her beloved teacher, perhaps the only person to see something in her, has left the classroom following a tragic and disturbing incident. Compelled, she sets off to restore his life.

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

The narrators shift throughout the novel, different speakers casting different perspectives on the strange chronology of events. At its core, Love May Fail tells the story of people who are broken by life, but also who manage to find one another and stubbornly point each other back to their light. A student whisks her teacher on a journey to find his magic again; a small-town rocker works to win the love of the girl he remembers; a man helps his protege see the value in the work she has created. The cycle of heartbreak and healing is woven rhythmically into the novel.

“The books we read in literature classes–just innocuous letters and symbols on paper, until we run the words through our brains and allow the fiction to manifest in the real world.”

Love May Fail is, by no means, a light read. Its narrative is compelling and told with a sparkle of humor, but the events that transpire in these characters’ lives are, at times, wrenching, painful, and honest. The narrative doesn’t shy away from heartbreak, I suppose I am trying to say, but it does answer that heartbreak with a realistic look at what healing looks like. Populated by Matthew Quick’s on-brand broken and brillialnt characters tossed into absurd questions, Love May Fail takes a hard look at what it means to be human, what it means to fail, and what it takes to rise anew.

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