Home > Mitch's Musings > Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
by Matthew Quick

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

By: Matthew Quick

Release Date: August 13, 2013

Rating: 2 stars

Summary:In addition to the P-38, there are four gifts, one for each of my friends. I want to say good-bye to them properly. I want to give them each something to remember me by. To let them know I really cared about them and I’m sorry I couldn’t be more than I was—that I couldn’t stick around—and that what’s going to happen today isn’t their fault.

Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather’s P-38 pistol.

But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart-obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school’s class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches.

In this riveting book, acclaimed author Matthew Quick unflinchingly examines the impossible choices that must be made—and the light in us all that never goes out.


For another take on the issues I had with this book, I encourage everyone to check out the New York Times’s review. I think Mr. Heller hits it on the head when he mentions how Quick writes Leonard Peacock with the darkness of an aspiring psychopath, and how that characterization conflicts with what we’re supposed to eventually accept about Leonard.


Admittedly, I picked up Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock with a great deal of skepticism. I like my issues books hard-hitting, dark, and gritty, but I’ve not had much success finding many authors who can deliver the kind of bleak realism that for me is the holy grail of the genre. I want to say Leonard Peacock impressed me with its authenticity, but for a book billed as an unflinching examination, Matthew Quick flinched – multiple times.

What disappoints me most about Leonard Peacock is that it’s written from the perspective of a teenager about to kill his best friend, but in the frame of mind of an adult trying to understand and ultimately come to terms with the difficult path that drove him to that decision, and it didn’t work for me. Frankly, I find it patronizing that the Leonard Peacock character is more an amalgam of stereotypes and excuses for explaining why a guy like him would be driven to do the unthinkable than a real character; I guess it makes people who struggle to understand the why feel better about themselves, but as a character study? – what I feel a book like this should be? – I’m sorry but it kind of sucks.

Maybe my problem is that I felt a complete lack of empathy for Leonard Peacock. Quick paints his character in bold strokes that only fall apart when you think about it, and for me I really needed a more nuanced approach to connect with the character. A lot of the story is quite superficial, Leonard as expected is condescending, has a superiority complex (because obviously someone who decides to kill another person is going to look down on everyone), and rails against the establishment, to the point Quick’s story feels very insincere, like he’s writing this for adults based on his consultations with psychologists rather than for teens based on interactions with actual teenagers who have these problems – that’s the only way I can explain how out of touch I feel Leonard’s character is. Nor does Quick ever reconcile that angry at the world mass shooter stereotype with the guy who needs to give closure to the four people who mean something to him before he goes through with his plan – I mean, sometimes he’s a psycho, sometimes he’s a perfectly normal if depressing guy, and maybe he has multiple personalities or something but I never did get the sense that he was one character all the way through struggling with the childhood trauma Quick eventually reveals is the cause of his actions – it was just bold stroke, bold stroke, bold stroke, there just wasn’t any nuance to fill in the gaps to his character.

Instead, Quick goes for tired philosophical and nihilistic musings in the form of Leonard’s attempted friendship with a home-schooled Christian girl to give his story the illusion of depth. You know, I expect a character who has suffered childhood trauma like Leonard has would feel a need to think about his place in the world, I’m not even going to call it a cliche, but this came off more like badgering people over their religious beliefs than any genuine soul-searching. And that’s a problem throughout this entire book, for a story about a guy who takes one last shot at coming to terms with what happened to him before he ends it all, there just wasn’t any genuine soul-searching, any depth, Quick tries to make Leonard sound deep with his writing style and the letters from the future and the distracting footnotes that are impossible to read in context with my ereader, but none of these things actually worked for me because each time I was pulled in one direction and started to get a feel for Leonard’s character, Quick’s overreliance on disaffected teen stereotypes just brought up too many inconsistencies and made the character impossible to connect with. Rather, it was all just a cheap after school special; I never felt Quick rises above trying to score points by feeding his readers the alienated lone gunman cliches we’ve come to associate with guys like Leonard to do an actual exploration of the character.

I wanted to be impressed by Matthew Quick’s hard-hitting, dark, and gritty storytelling, but Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is none of these things. Sure I felt it was sad, but not sad as in emotional – sad as in pathetic.

Go to Mitch’s review on Goodreads.

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  1. August 28, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    This book is an upcoming book club choice and I too am very skeptical. Now after reading your review I think I shall go in with a completely empty mind so I won’t hate it. I already know I won’t like it.

    • August 28, 2013 at 8:00 pm

      Yes I can see how this may be popular with the parents but for those of us who expect to see parts ourselves in this character something about it I don’t think exactly rings true. I had a better time with Hassan’s similar Crash and Burn even if it was way more convoluted.

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