Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

Wednesday 11 June 2014 by

Forgive Me Leonard Peacock, Matthew Quick, Headline, BookForgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

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How would you spend your birthday if you knew it would be your last?

Leonard Peacock is going to shoot Asher Beal. Then he’s going to shoot himself. But before he can do that, he needs to say goodbye to the four people who have kept him going this long – his neighbour, a violinist, a pastor’s daughter and a teacher.

With five presents in his school bag – one a P-38 WWII Nazi handgun – Leonard embarks on his last day.

~*~

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is one of those books you have to just keep reading. From its opening image of a handgun next to a bowl of oatmeal, it sucks you in to Leonard’s strange, warped worldview. And though there’s always a lingering fear that it’s going to be a devastating read – Leonard makes his intentions to end it all very clear, very quickly – you can’t help but start to root for him to make the right choices, and hope that things don’t go the way he plans.

Leonard is a difficult character to like. He lies, he’s depressing, he wants to murder one of his classmates. But the further into the story you go, the more you identify with him, the more you start to understand who he is, and why. When the eventual reveal of what caused him to start his downward spiral rolls round, it doesn’t even really matter anymore. You understand his outlook so well, what caused it is less important than the thought of what – if anything – could change it.

Some of Leonard’s behaviours were hauntingly familiar to me. Leonard sets challenges for people without ever telling them what it is; therefore making it a challenge they are doomed to fail. If you just remember it‘s my birthday, then I won‘t have to go through with all this. But because Leonard fails to communicate with most people with any sort of truthfulness, his desperate pleading with people is only ever in his head. It’s tragic, because you get the sense that he would be so easy to save, but because he’s gone so far, his own behaviour doesn’t allow other people in. And as someone who has a habit of setting the same impossible gauntlets for people, this sort of behaviour came across as very authentic.

Forgive Me is not the sort of book to read when you’re feeling vulnerable. It will get under your skin, make you understand the bleak, hopeless outlook of Leonard. If you let it, it will start making you see things the same way. But it’s a book that should be read, because it makes you realise how frighteningly easy it is to get to the point Leonard’s at; how, if you allow yourself to lose hope, everything can seem so pointless. BUT, that there always is something beautiful and wonderful, if you’re prepared to work for it.

Matthew Quick doesn’t give any easy answers, nor does he fill you with false promises that everything will be okay. I imagine the ending of the novel will bug some people, as it doesn’t really give a resolution to Leonard’s situation. But life doesn’t give easy resolutions, and this is a story about the absurdity and randomness of life, and what it means to try and make any sort of sense of it. To force it within the constraints of Hollywood story structure would have been to lessen its impact.

You can follow Loralei on Twitter: @LAHaylock

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