Speechless by Adam P. Schmitt Book Review
Jimmy, the novel’s protagonist, is going to his cousin Patrick’s wake, and he needs to give a speech saying some good things about his cousin as part of the funeral. However, although Jimmy is not bad at public speaking and did a reasonably good speech in English class the past week, he is hesitant and unsure about what to say about Patrick. Patrick has caused so many hardships and Jimmy has had bad experiences with him. This includes a trip to Washington when Patrick forces Jimmy to eat a chocolate bar and Jimmy chokes. I would recommend that Jimmy should think more deeply about Patrick and reflect more, because even if you don’t like someone, there should be always something good you remember about them. He needs to connect and use a “window” to go into Patrick’s shoes, and instead of thinking of Patrick’s personality in a negative way, he should think positively and think using a new angle, that Patrick’s personality is unique.
There are two main conflicts in the novel Speechless, which pit Jimmy against himself and Jimmy against the past Patrick. The setting of the story, the funeral home, provides tension in the story, because Jimmy needs to give a speech about Patrick there, and in doing so, this evokes bad memories of Patrick from Jimmy’s childhood. However, there are many flashbacks to settings in Jimmy’s childhood interactions with Patrick, and he begins to give a second thought to his cousin. This protagonist against self conflict is reflected namely in the story about the Young Engineers Club, where Jimmy begins to think that Patrick actually may have been right in standing up to the unfairness in the club. Overall, both the current setting of the wake and the flashback settings contribute to a major part of the conflict of Speechless.
I predict that the plot will continue to describe the setting of the funeral, and that Jimmy will eventually reckon with the truth of his relationship with Patrick and finally come up with something to say at the wake. This is hinted in the fact that Jimmy begins to go into Patrick’s shoes. For example, Jimmy finally understood why Patrick was so angry in the Young Engineers club and realized that Patrick wasn’t the one who cheated off help from his dad on his airplane, and that Patrick was treated unfairly by the camp director. The example demonstrates that even though Patrick evoked bad memories for Jimmy, he finally was unable to look at Patrick’s personality in a new perspective. This hints that Jimmy will be more understanding of Patrick, so he will be able to write something for his eulogy, as hard as it seems. Of course, I am confident that the author will provide some tension as he already has in the story, so it will not seem like a lame Hollywood happy-ending movie.
Day 4: Category 4- 12/12/2020
The novel Speechless by Adam Schmitt has given me a window into someone else’s story and given me a positive experience. First, the story provides an in-depth look into the theme of death, and what it looks like to reckon with the death of a family member at a wake. I have never been to a funeral or witnessed someone die, so Speechless provided me a window by opening up a new perspective of how it feels to reflect on the death of a fellow family member. The novel puts me into someone’s else’s shoes. I have begun to truly grasp the concept of mixed feelings for a dead cousin at a funeral through this story. Although I find it hard to personally connect to Speechless, many of the themes of struggle and self-conflict resonate with me in the sense that I too experience some of those emotions in my life.
Overall, although the protagonist of Speechless is very different from me, I was able to relate to the novel through its moral concept of family and community. Through reading a new type of novel, I was forced to think deeply about what the meaning of family and community is especially when a loved one dies. Speechless taught me that regardless of whether a relationship with a loved one or family member is positive or negative, listening to each other opens up one’s perspective and provides an opportunity to help others and see their concerns. In the case of Speechless, Jimmy does not realize that the solution to his cousin Patrick’s problems is actually listening to Patrick and possibly somehow befriending him to improve his cousin’s behavior. Within the concept of family, Speechless also emphasized forgiveness and regret, which means Jimmy, as much as he didn’t like Patrick, needs to come to an understanding and realize what has wounded his cousin and amend for them through an apology. In the end, although Patrick is no longer alive since he died from overdose of painkillers, Jimmy reflects on what he did wrong and what he can do better in the future.