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The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey

Narrated by: James Lecesne
Length: 1 hr and 2 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (5,256 ratings)

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Go Behind the Scenes with James Lecesne

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"Mr. Lecesne is a writer of wit and keen observational skills, who here
unfolds a dark tale that shimmers with the needling suspense you
associate with the best police procedurals."

The New York Times

Our favorite moments from The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey

  • The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey
  • Reporting Leonard missing
  • The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey
  • Searching for hope
  • The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey
  • Leonard’s super power
James Lecesne

About the Creator and Performer

James Lecesne wrote the short film Trevor, which won the 1995 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short and inspired the founding of The Trevor Project, the only nationwide 24-hour suicide prevention and crisis intervention Lifeline for LGBTQIA+ and questioning youth. He created The Road Home: Stories of Children of War, which was presented at the International Peace Initiative at The Hague, and produced the documentary film, After the Storm, about the lives of 12 young people living in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. James adapted Armistead Maupin’s Further Tales of The City series and was a writer on the series Will & Grace. He has written three novels for young adults and created The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves. As an actor, James has appeared on TV in Sex and the City, on Broadway in The Best Man, and off-Broadway in The Boys in The Band, Cloud 9, One Man Band, Word of Mouth (Drama Desk Award), and The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey (Outer Critics Circle Award). James brilliantly performs every character in the audio version of his hit play The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey.

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What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    3,516
  • 4 Stars
    972
  • 3 Stars
    478
  • 2 Stars
    145
  • 1 Stars
    145

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    4,017
  • 4 Stars
    543
  • 3 Stars
    205
  • 2 Stars
    68
  • 1 Stars
    70

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    3,168
  • 4 Stars
    890
  • 3 Stars
    515
  • 2 Stars
    177
  • 1 Stars
    146

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • 'Nathan
  • Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • 09-16-19

A Story About People Like Me, But Not For Us.

I listened to this one this morning while I walked the dog, and it's safe to say I'm sitting here beyond conflicted. I think it's because "The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey" is about me, but it's not at all—on any level—for me.

Let me explain. James Lecense wrote, narrated, and acted this himself, playing all the characters, and he did a pretty solid job. I believed the voices, the characters, and definitely the camp. If you don't know who James Lecense is—as I didn't—he wrote the short "Trevor," and is a founder of "The Trevor Project." Lecense is obviously a massive force in education and promoting empathy among those who don't seem to want to consider us LGBT folk as human. And we are absolutely the better for having him among us, as "Trevor" and "The Trevor Project" are both incredible forces for good. Truly.

This audio might do the same for some readers. In fairness, I'm not sure I would have picked it up had I known a bit more about it. The blurb describes Leonard as "a tenaciously optimistic and flamboyant 14-year-old boy who goes missing."

"Missing."

Now, I suppose it could be considered a spoiler to mention that almost immediately in the narrative we find out what happened to Leonard (and I'm going to, so eject here if you want), but the phrasing there had me thinking I was potentially in for a story about a kid who took off for somewhere else, or maybe a mystery that's never unraveled. Instead, no, it's pretty much what ever story about a missing fourteen year old turns into, and we learn that Leonard has been murdered and tied down and dropped in a lake.

At the funeral, the cop writes "Possible Hate Crime" down on his notepad for the first time, and I start to realize this is a story about people like me but it's not for people like me. It's for people who need examples of people like me doing good and bringing light into the world being snuffed out to frame it from the point of view of a tragedy, to teach and learn how awful that is.

I already know. And I'm exhausted by endless stories where every LGBT person in the story is dead (because this gets doubled-down later, of course, when the cop interviews a side-character I believe we're meant to empathize with mentions how he used to be an abusive father to his own LGBT kid because he wanted to beat it out of him, but he got a second chance through meeting Leonard, to "do it right this time," but yeah, too late for his kid, his kid died in the 90's. Oh, and would the cop like some hot chocolate?)

There is zero closure to this story. We never find out why the killer did what he did. We never find out how he and Leonard ended up in each other's presence on the final day. We never hear the murderer speak about his crime, though he does get a maximum sentence (underscoring we're in fiction territory). No, All we're given is a moving tribute from the cop—a man who never met Leonard— about how the light from this kid shines on in everyone he met and touched and I am so very, very done.

So, that was my one-star emotional, frustrated, angry reaction to yet another story about how hate kills us but we're supposed to celebrate posthumous LGBT light because the kid may have died, but he changed us all, so he's not really gone forever. No. He's gone. Forever.

So why did I give it three stars? Because it's a five-star story for not-LGBTfolk in the same way that "but what if it was your daughter?" is sometimes the only way to get some men to consider the impact of misogyny when they should damn well be fully capable of understanding all women matter regardless of relation. There's a line in the performance where someone bemoans how they don't believe "everything happens for a reason" (and huzzah to that!) but that "you have to find the reason in everything" and I think that's the crux of this story's purpose. I didn't need that reason. I didn't need that story. I've lived it, thanks. But who knows, maybe there are people out there who'll find it inspiring or moving or in some way enlightening. But if you already know LGBT people shouldn't be killed for being themselves, or if you're LGBT yourself and really tired of stories where the whole point is how people learn from us when we're murdered, I'd suggest skipping this one completely. I wish I had.

The audio performance was, as I said, really strong. You can tell Lecesne is an actor and although sometimes the choice to go into high camp with the characters clashes with the tone of the narrative's events, characterization never wavers, and you always know who's speaking.

54 of 60 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Elisabeth
  • STANTON, CA, United States
  • 09-06-19

Sad

The performance is the best part of this . This is a heartfelt take on a sad and far too frequent story. It involves a hate crime and how what happens to one person can have a ripple effect on so may others. I think the intent was to be uplifting, but i found it to be depressing. This is one that will stay with you.

31 of 35 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Darcy
  • United States
  • 09-08-19

Great writing/Funny and touching

This I would pay for even! Sent me right to Wikipedia for more info about James Lecesne. Such a talent! Thank you, Audible, for bringing all these wonderful plays and performances to us each month. You are totally redefining the listening experience.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Terrific!

Wonderful performances, great story with good substance, and just an all around good listen. my only complaint is that I didn't want it to end so soon.

17 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

HOLY GUACAMOLE! MUST LISTEN!

Funny, quirky, sad, brilliantly written and narrated. He is AMAZING! Take a chance. it totally pays off. I wish it was longer

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Sadly Heartwarming

This was the perfect short listen. It's uplifting and tragic at the same time. The author did a wonderful job translating the brightness and inspiring comfortabilty of Leonard.

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic!

I’ve never written a review before, and I’ve been an audible customer for 15 years or so…
This story is a fantastic gem. A well-crafted short story; moving, nicely paced, authentic dialogue that reveals characters three dimensionally. Beautifully performed. I highly recommend.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Exceptional voice acting

Some of the best voice acting I have ever heard. I thoroughly enjoyed this funny, moving story.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

🌈💡James Lecesne Has Given the World a Treasure 🌏💎💡

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this brilliant jewel of a one-man play. I’ve never heard anything like it, and likely never will again. The scene with the teenaged girl delivering the impromptu eulogy at the funeral will stay with me. Bravo, Mr. Lecescne! I only wish that everyone in the world could listen to this. I’m already recommending it to everyone I know.

Grade: A+

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Simply fabulous!

I am so in love and appreciative of the Audible offerings of Broadway solo shows like this one. Beautifully written, performed and produced, it made my heart open and gave me hope for the human species. Thank you Mr. Lescane and Audible!

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • UniCatering
  • 09-30-19

Roller-coaster Of Emotions

I absolutely LOVED the way that the author used people to describe Leonard; people showing different levels of interest and emotion towards him and his character. The only negative with this story is that it's only an hour long!
James Lecesne is a very talented narrator, and I believe he fit perfectly into the style in which this book was written; I actually laughed audible-ly at certain lines performed in his voice!