Bartholomew Neil is thirty-eight years old and has lived with his mother his entire life. She recently passed away after a battle with brain cancer, and now Bartholomew faces life alone. He’s never had a job, and he probably falls somewhere on the autism spectrum. He spends his days at the library, harboring a longtime crush on a socially awkward woman he calls The Girlbrarian. A young counselor named Wendy recommends therapy to help him deal with his grief, but the thing is Bartholomew feels okay. Not great, but he’s getting by…with some help from Richard Gere.
The Good Luck of Right Now is written in epistolary format, each chapter a letter to Richard Gere. Bartholomew’s mother was a huge Richard Gere fan, and after finding a form letter from Gere that his mother saved, Bartholomew decides to start writing letters to Gere, whom he sees as a suave confidant. Through these letters, we learn more about Bartholomew’s life: he’s a devout Catholic with a close relationship to his longtime priest, Father McNamee. Soon after Bartholomew’s mother dies, Father McNamee has a very public breakdown during church service — he’s bipolar and an alcoholic, and he somehow winds up living on Bartholomew’s couch. Meanwhile, taking Wendy up on her offer to attend group grief counseling, Bartholomew meets a foul-mouthed man who believes in aliens. An unlikely friendship develops, and suddenly Bartholomew’s once-insular life is filled with all kinds of drama, adventure, and serendipitous connections.
Here’s the thing.
This book is Quirky With a Capital Q. The characters are a band of misfits, the story is kind of saccharine and predictable, and Richard Gere could conceivably star as himself should the book get made into a movie. There’s all this talk about synchronicity and Jung and Buddhism that would allow Gere to appear in the movie even though he’s technically not even a character, just the receiver of Bartholomew’s letters/an imaginary friend.
So yeah, it’s kind of “We Are Quirky and This Should Be Made into a Movie Co-Starring Richard Gere”-ish, but I really really liked it. The book is addictively entertaining and funny and just leaves you with the warm fuzzies (yeah: I actually said “the warm fuzzies”). I say this, and I don’t even like epistolary novels. Like…at all. Not even a little bit. (I probably have Beverly Cleary’s Dear Mr. Henshaw to thank for that. When I opened the book and saw “Dear Richard Gere,” my brain actually went “Noooooooooo! Mr. Henshawwww!” But The Good Luck of Right Now, I’m happy to report, is not like Dear Mr. Henshaw.)
What can I say? The book charmed its quirky way into my good graces. The inclusion of cats and librarians and chopped up brains and Cindy Crawford references probably helped.
Anyway. You know what? I’d see the movie too.
The Good Luck of Right Now was released on February 11, 2014 by Harper Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.