Yes, I realize this is my second blog post in just over a week dealing with deep lessons learned from a fictional character in a young-adult novel. Don’t say that like it’s a bad thing, OK?
The movie version of The Fault in Our Stars comes out today, and I sincerely hope it’s as good as people are saying it will be, good enough to do justice to the book that young people like my kids and adults like myself have fallen in love with. There’s so much to be said about this book, about Hazel and Gus and the whole idea of living and falling in love against the backdrop of certain death — which of course we’re all doing, all the time, except that teenagers with terminal cancer are actually forced to recognize that fact. But my need to write a TFiOS-related blog post has come down to one thing: I want to talk about the character of Patrick, who appears in only one scene in the novel.
Patrick, an adult cancer survivor, is the leader of the support group for young cancer patients at which Hazel Grace Lancaster, a reluctant attendee, meets Augustus Waters. Patrick’s ineffectual leadership of the group gives the reader a great glimpse of narrator Hazel’s sarcasm as she describes Patrick in her internal monologue.
“[We] listened to Patrick recount for the thousandth time his depressingly miserable life story — how he had cancer in his balls and they thought he was going to die but he didn’t die and now here he is, a full-grown adult in a church basement in the 137th nicest city in America, divorced, addicted to video games, mostly friendless, eking out a meager living by exploiting his cancertastic past, slowly working his way toward a master’s degree that will not improve his career prospects, waiting, as we all do, for the sword of Damocles to give him the relief that he escaped lo those many years ago when cancer took both of his nuts but spared what only the most generous soul would call his life. AND YOU TOO MIGHT BE SO LUCKY!”
Patrick’s small role in the book looks like it’s going to be played beautifully by comedian Mike Birbiglia, as you can see in a short segment of the trailer below (the “support group” scene is about 25 seconds into the trailer).
While the support group is a plot device that allows Hazel and Gus to meet, it’s a lot more than that, despite the fact that neither the group nor its leader plays a major role in the book. To understand why I think Patrick is so key to understanding a major theme of this novel, it helps to know a little about the author.