Play It As It Lays Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Play It As It Lays

Maria is sad all the time, her acting career is over and she turns to prescription drugs withdrawing from the world. Maria is giving up on life. California's sunny skies do not lift her constant depression. Largely ignored by her husband who prefers filming pornography than caring about the state of his wife's mental condition, Maria turns to pills. An addiction ensues and she is hospitalized in a mental institution.
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The 1970s were turbulent times for many people unable to manage day-to-day living. Maria's psychiatrist over medicates her and because he is a doctor (authoritative figure) she follows his instructions believing that the pills will help make her better.

She rambles, mumbles, and explodes when she is alert enough to do address others. This piece of fiction is heartbreaking and depressing. Maria never really sheds the funk of her life. Her husband's money, the women he runs with, and his fascination with anything that doesn't concern his wife falling apart in front of his eyes, makes you feel Maria's pain even more.

She has spent time as an actress and when the last role flops Maria's light goes out. She stops trying and withdraws into herself. The people she once knew and hung out with at dinner parties stop coming by and calling. It may have to do with Hollywood phoniness, but no one really has her back.

The family lives in California, Nevada and the Mohave desert. None of these places and spaces raises Maria's drive. Fearing for the safety of her young daughter family members remove the little girl from her mother. Her young daughter is also committed for a mental condition. It likely derived from emotionally absent parents and the need for touch and stability. This does not help Maria's self-esteem. At this point she feels abandoned by everyone and trusts no one.

The only time Maria comes to life is when she gets in her car and drives around aimlessly searching for something that readers are not made privy to. It probably isn't a good idea to drive high off of an unlimited supply of psychotropic drugs, but it gives readers another dimension to her sad existence. Fresh air can be healthy and being outdoors gives a glimmer of hope that Maria may snap back into life. She has a strong need to please others and she sadly disappoints because she doesn't handle follow through very well. It appears she suffered from chronic depression and her meds should have been adjusted or maybe even changed to something more natural. After all, she was in the West in the 1970s.

As a reader you feel like she is continuously on the brink of committing suicide. I can't say for certain if she would have physically harmed her daughter. What is clear, is that she was not able to care for the little girl on her own. Noises and movement bothered Maria greatly and children make noise, they also need attention and love. While Maria loved her child she just was not together enough to care for her. Her husband wasn't interested, but it seems it he could have afforded a nanny or other in-home help for his clearly ill wife.

The pill addiction only added to Maria's fragile state. She is hospitalized but never shares with readers what happened in her past to lead to her depression and poor coping skills.
Best part of story, including ending: I hated that Maria did not get any better. I wwas pulling for her.

Best scene in story: My favorite scene was when Maria went for drives. Those were the only times she seemed alive.

Opinion about the main character: I disliked that Maria didn't have enough energy to fight for her life. I wanted her to snap out of the funk.

The review of this Book prepared by C. Imani Williams a Level 13 Blue-Winged Teal scholar

Chapter Analysis of Play It As It Lays

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   depressed Time/era of story    -   1960's-1970's Internal struggle/realization?    -   Yes Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Brain/Body disability?    -   mental illness

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   actor/actress/producer Ethnicity/Nationality    -   White (American) Unusual characteristics:    -   Mentally ill


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   3 () City?    -   Yes City:    -   Los Angeles

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   touching of anatomy    -   orgies Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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