Technically, this isn’t a book recommendation, but I need to give a shout-out to a story that stole my heart: The Peanut Butter Falcon.
A character-driven movie about kindness and generosity, acceptance and the meaning of family, The Peanut Butter Falcon is set on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. (The cinematography, by the way, is incredible.) The storyline circles my favorite theme as a writer: that people who need each other find each other. To quote one of the secondary characters, “Friends are the family you choose.”
At the heart of the story is Zak, a young man with Down Syndrome, who has been abandoned by his genetic family. Living in a nursing home, he has friends—including Eleanor, his social worker—but he’s several decades younger than the other residents. The first time we meet Zak, he’s trying to run away, because he has a dream to chase: join Salt Water Redneck’s Wrestling School in Florida.
With the help of his roommate, an aging scientist, he escapes in the middle of night wearing nothing but his Y-fronts, and embarks on his quest. When he takes shelter under a tarpaulin in the back of a boat, he crosses paths with Tyler, a troubled fisherman on the run. They quickly form an unlikely bond, which leads Zak to deliver the best line of the movie: “I’m going to give you all of my wishes for my birthday.”
Eventually Eleanor tracks them down, and when Zak tosses her keys into the ocean, the adventure really begins. There is something raw, authentic, and heartwarming about the interaction between these three characters. Without melodrama, they trust and support each other and live up to the inscription on the butt of Tyler’s rifle: family first.
If you love quirky, heartfelt family drama, this is one of the best. I hope it collects buckets of Oscar nominations.