We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Release Date – March 23, 2003
Publisher Website – Harper Collins
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader
Pages - 400 pages
My Rating- 4/5
Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Eva never really wanted to be a mother - and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin's horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklyn. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.A mother has many situations that would qualify as a parents worst nightmare after they have children. Many horrors that could potentially happen to their offspring and their instinct is protect. This story deals with the dread of hearing something horrific has happened at your child’s school…..only to be told your child is not a victim but rather the perpetrator.
The families of the people who commit acts of violence have never really entered my thoughts. I usually feel for the victims, their families and loved ones. I think it’s easier to not think of the one responsible as having people who might care about them. This novel took me and made me examine what it might be like for those left behind. By the end of the novel I looked at them as another casualty in a tragic situation.
The idea of writing the novel in letter format resonated with me. I felt I got to know Eva much better this way. Her voice was so clear and was an extension of her character. Her background, past experience, education, and beliefs all presented themselves in her writing. A guilt driven, haunted and strong woman her pain is uncomfortable because it’s easy to put yourself in her place.
The other characters come to life and are so richly developed and multifaceted. Kevin, and Franklin are so fully realized with using only Eva’s voice. Lionel Shriver’s strength is evident when you take into account that this all comes about in letter format.
I found the notion that she wasn’t one hundred percent sure of motherhood, and that she was even a little put off by the idea intriguing. I had not come across a woman in literature who was quite indifferent to motherhood. A flawed mother that keeps her child at a distance. She was a little selfish, not ready to give up her career and perhaps she would never be ready. She did not feel like she was a good mother to Kevin, and this caused her to blame herself for a lot of his actions.
Kevin fascinated me. His character danced teasingly between allowing the reader to grasp an understanding of him and his being a million steps ahead of not only Eva but the reader as well. His tight clothing, indifference and cold nature masked something that is not relatable, and yet not unrecognizable either. Perhaps the scariest thing about Kevin is how average he appears, and how completely unknowable he is. His intelligence and ability to see through people were tools he used to get under people's skin and make them uncomfortable. Manipulative, bored, and distant are just some of the words I would use to describe this complex character.
A sense of foreboding accompanies the novel’s slow build to it’s shattering conclusion. Something that was telegraphed and hinted at so completely in the novel eluded me and I was left shocked and shaken. While the novel has a most satisfying ending, the lack of a definitive reasoning behind Kevin’s actions may unsettle some readers.
This story is an unflinching look at senseless tragedies, and those left in the aftermath that are rarely thought of. It’s also an eye opening look at raising children that might make some people uncomfortable. It’s a gripping, complex read that will haunt you long after you’ve finished reading it.