‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver

We Need to Talk About KevinstarstarstarstarstarThe first time I started this book I couldn’t get into it. But when it became an assignment for my reading group, I tried again and I am so glad that I did. It is an intense, absorbing, and captivating novel. I read it compulsively, stealing time from other projects so that I could get back to it. It is chilling and haunting, not so much in any graphic way considering the subject, but in horrific everyday sorts of realizations  along the way. There are insights into all sorts of aspects of family life and parenting that Shriver weaves into this gripping story. Because it is a series of letters, it reads more like non-fiction than fiction, and gives the reader an incredible view into the thoughts of the narrator. It is not a cheap thriller, it is a great work of literature. The characters and themes are well drawn and the writing is expertly crafted. It will be on my mind for a long time and though I have not yet seen the movie, I don’t see how it could come close to offering all of the insights that the author develops in this book.

Kevin is responsible for a Columbine type school massacre. We know this at the beginning of the book so the letters his mother sends to his father, are all in hindsight. This type of incident (and there have been so many) inevitably raises the question of how something like this could happen. Was there a serious flaw in the person, in the parents, in society? When we look back into that person’s life in light of what happened, which this book does, were there any signs and clues that were missed? Was this the result of a cold and judgemental mother or an indulgent father? Was it because the boy was rich, or bullied, or marginalized? There is the inclination to find fault or place blame, because the thought that an ordinary child from a middle class family could get up one morning and commit a multiple murder in cold blood, is just too chilling to absorb.

The ending (in the final paragraph, not the major reveal towards the end) makes a profound statement and is most shocking of all, but I can’t tell you why I thought so because it would involve spoilers. So when you’re finished reading, we do really need to talk about Kevin.

One response to “‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver

  1. This book caused me nightmares! I would not dare to go see the movie, but when I talk to friends who saw it, it’s apparently not as graphic as the novel.

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