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We Need To Talk About Kevin
By Lionel Shriver
Completed January 30, 2009

When I started We Need To Talk About Kevin, I did so with hesitation. Several readers commented how it was depressing, the characters were unlikable and the subject was uncomfortable. Admittedly, that’s exactly how I would summarize this book. I couldn’t wait for it to end. It was like approaching a car accident, rubbernecking to see what happened and then hurriedly speeding up to get past it.

It’s the story of Eva, written as letters to her estranged husband about their son, Kevin, who killed students and teachers at his high school. Eva is self-loathing, egocentric and probably not the best candidate to be a mother. Through Eva’s descriptions, we learn that her husband was overly optimistic, turning the other cheek at Kevin’s flaws. And Kevin is portrayed as angry and troubled. I am not sure if he had a happy moment in the book.

Like any parent, Eva dissected every moment of her child’s life to determine what went wrong. How did she make Kevin into this murderer? She chronicled her hesitancy to have children, her failures to breastfeed and her unattachment to her son. We learned a lot about her mistakes but little about any successes. Perhaps there were none to write about.

(As a side note, this book made me contemplate how our society scrutinizes parents so heavily when their child murders, but if a 25-year-old man committed the same act, the parents rarely come into question. Moreover, parents always scrutinize themselves, no matter the age of our children.)

We Need To Talk About Kevin didn’t move me like it did other readers. I preferred Jodi Picoult’s treatment of this subject in Nineteen Minutes. It was better rounded, giving you an overall view of the players involved in a school shooting. While I didn’t like the story, I did find Lionel Shriver’s writing to be superb and would read another book by her. We Need To Talk About Kevin just wasn’t my cup of tea. ( )


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 1st, 2009 10:07 am (UTC)
We Need to Talk About Kevin
I'm sorry you didn't love this as much as everyone else. Perhaps it is because I have only recently become a mother, that I am much more sensitive to these sorts of emotions.

I'd be interested to read Nineteen Minutes, to see if I like that as well.
Feb. 1st, 2009 02:13 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean about the uncomfortableness of this subject. Took an entire college class in victimology (not knowing it would be about psycopaths, serial killers, children who kill parents, etc.) This was 10 years ago, but the professor and guest speakers said that children become psycopaths by the age of 8 if there is not enough bonding from their mother or if they are abandoned by their mother - and that past this age, they cannot be rehabilitated. I have always questioned this in my mind. It's interesting to note, however, that the mother in this case stated she did not bond well with her son...

Feb. 2nd, 2009 01:12 am (UTC)
This does sound like it would be disturbing. I have to be in the right mood to tackle something like this.
Feb. 3rd, 2009 09:59 pm (UTC)
Hmm...I really liked this book, so I'm actually hesitant to pick up Nineteen Minutes. I thought Shriver's story was great, but her writing was pretentious in my opinion. I liked how Shriver showed the contrast in parenting between Eva and her husband. Lots of food for thought.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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