Jill (mrstreme) wrote,

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We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

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. ( )

Tags: 2009 books i've read, book awards ii reading challenge, orange january, orange prize project

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