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Book Club Kits: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Book Summary

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 look at a day in the life of a disturbed teenage boy, acclaimed author Matthew Quick unflinchingly examines the impossible choices that must be made—and the light in us all that never goes out.

Discussion Questions

1)      Discuss the title. Who is the “me” in Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock? Why is this person requesting forgiveness?

2)      Leonard makes liberal use of footnotes and also experiments with space—shrinking the lines of text to just a few letters (Chapter 25) and only putting a single word on each page (Chapter 30). How do these choices help characterize Leonard?

3)      Why do Walt and Leonard communicate primarily through Humphrey-Bogart-related quotes?

4)      Baback says Leonard has “first-world problems” in chapter 15. Leonard says, “I bet there are people in Iran who are happier than I am.” Quickly summarize both points of view. Why does each character feel the way he does? With whom do you most agree or sympathize?

5)      In chapter 19, Herr Silverman says this to Leonard: “Different is good. But different is hard.” Do you agree? Why or why not?

6)      Are Leonard’s letters from the future optimistic or pessimistic? What specifically do they tell us about Leonard’s outlook on life?

7)      Leonard is a self-proclaimed atheist. Why does he ask Lauren to pray for him?

8)      Consider the bike ride memory Leonard describes in Chapter 28. By the end of the novel, do you see Asher Beal as a victim or a villain? Why?

9)      “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Do the words tattooed on Herr Silverman’s arm relate at all to Leonard’s high school experience? How so or why not?

10)  In chapter 33, Leonard describes an unusual painting of a tree “surrounded by the decapitated heads of famous political leaders … fallen … like rotten fruit. And a huge red X has been painted over the entire painting—like someone stamped it with a rejection.” Why do you think Herr Silverman purchased and hung this artwork in his home?

11)  In chapter 37, Linda says to Leonard, “I spoke with your teacher, Mr. Silverman … He said you had your grandfather’s old war gun. As if that paperweight would ever fire, I told him.” Does Leonard know the working condition of the gun when he wraps it in pink paper? If the P-38 really can’t fire, does that change your view of Leonard? Does it make him more or less sympathetic?

12)  Why doesn’t Leonard go through with the murder-suicide? Herr Silverman helps Leonard when he calls from under the bridge. Do any of the other characters save Leonard too? How so or why not?

13)  In his fourth letter from the future, Leonard sends himself this message: “Weed your mind. And man the great light. Even when no one is looking.” Do you think Leonard will follow that advice? Why or why not?

14)  How would you help Leonard Peacock?

About the Author

Matthew Quick is the New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook, which was made into an Oscar-winning film; The Good Luck of Right Now; and three young adult novels: Sorta Like A Rock Star; Boy21; and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. His work has been translated into thirty languages, received a PEN/Hemingway Award Honorable Mention, was an LA Times Book Prize finalist, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, a #1 bestseller in Brazil, and selected by Nancy Pearl as one of Summer’s Best Books for NPR. Love May Fail will be published in 2015. All of his books have been optioned for film.

Matthew spent the first few years of his life in Philadelphia before being raised just across the Delaware River in Oaklyn, New Jersey. He graduated from Collingswood High School (class of 1992) and La Salle University (class of 1996), where he double-majored in English and secondary education. He taught high school literature and film in southern New Jersey for several years, during which he coached soccer and basketball, chaperoned trips to Peru and Ecuador, initiated a pen-pal exchange with students in Namibia, and counseled troubled teens.

In 2004 Matthew made the difficult decision to leave teaching and pursue his dream of becoming a fiction writer. He received his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Goddard College in 2007 and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from La Salle University in 2013. He lives with his wife, novelist/pianist Alicia Bessette, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.