How would you spend your birthday if you knew it would be your last?
Eighteen-year-old Leonard Peacock knows exactly what he'll do. He'll say goodbye.
Not to his mum - who he calls Linda because it annoys her - who's moved out and left him to fend for himself. Nor to his former best friend, whose torments have driven him to consider committing the unthinkable. But to his four friends: a Humphrey-Bogart-obsessed neighbour, a teenage violin virtuoso, a pastor's daughter and a teacher.
Most of the time, Leonard believes he's weird and sad but these friends have made him think that maybe he's not. He wants to thank them, and say goodbye.
Leonard Peacock is a complex young man. When he wakes up on the morning of his eighteenth birthday and decides he no longer want to live, he packs his grandfather’s revolver into his school bag and leaves the house intending to kill his friend, Asker Beal, and then himself. Along the way, Leonard delivers a gift to individuals who have played a part in his life. None of these people are what they seem. They all live on the periphery of their communities; an old man who doesn’t leave the house, a school friend who is bullied by the other kids, a teacher with his own secret past.
Leonard hasn’t had it easy. His parents are, for the most part, absent and we learn later in the book that it is the events of the past that have shaped Leonard and led to his decision to take his life.
The novel’s events are serious and much of the narrative is dark It is written in the first person and Quick does an excellent job of presenting Leonard’s mindset in a typically teenage way. That is not to say that this novel should be aimed at teenagers. For me, the themes and undercurrents are very bleak and I would be cautious that only adult readers approach this story.
In structure, the novel reminded me very much of Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven, with each relationship given a section of the text, with some being more engaging than others.
When Sharon asked me to review this text, I was very excited to get going. I’d heard excellent reviews of The Silver Linings Playbook, Quick’s previous novel. I have to say that I found this to be a difficult read. There were a number of instances when I kept saying ‘But would that really happen?’ and I found myself picking holes in the back story of the plot. Also, black humour is not my bag. Lovers of the work of the Coen brothers might engage with this text, but it just wasn’t for me, I’m afraid.
I'd like to thank Headline for sending me a copy of this book to review and Danielle for her honest review.