Sunday, September 2, 2007

BOOK: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

First of all, Lionel Shriver is a woman. I don't know why that should make a difference, but just like it changes how you say someone's name if you know how it is spelled - Sean, or Shawn, it does make a little difference.

Second, holy cow! What a book. It took me about 100 pages to get into it, and I wasn't sure I would like it in the beginning, because the narrator is not easy to like. But suddenly, I was wondering where my Sunday went, because I didn't get off the couch. This is not an easy book to read, it may challenge some ideas, it may make you think, it may make you scared, very scared, but you won't forget Kevin.

Plot summary, from the back cover:
In this gripping novel of motherhood gone awry, Lionel Shriver approaches the tragedy of a high-school massacre from the point of view of the killer's mother. In letters written to the boy's father, mother Eva probes the upbringing of this more-than-difficult child and reveals herself to have been the reluctant mother of an unsavory son. As the schisms in her family unfold, we draw closer to an unexpected climax that holds breathtaking surprises and its own hard-won redemption.

The big question after one of these shooting incidents, is always, why? Eva, the mother, takes us through Kevin's life and her own, to look for these answers. She is brutally honest about herself and how she saw things, but it is only her perspective in the end. There are parts where you will cringe with uncomfortableness, with sympathy, and with a 'there, but for the grace of God, go I'.

I don't like to put spoilers in a review, and I won't, but I would really like to talk to somebody who has read this book. This would make a great discussion book, especially among parents and teachers. Dewey picked this book for her Something About Me list, because she is the parent of a high school boy and a high school teacher. I teach high school, and my kids are younger, but it still had a great impact. Thanks, dewey, for the suggestion, I am really glad I read this one.


  1. Sounds good. I put it on hold at the library and will let you know what I think.

  2. I have considered reading this book, largely based on reviews like yours. However, because of my oldest son's ADHD and anxiety, I was afraid if it might scare the bejesus out of me (not sure if Kevin has one of these conditions, but it makes me wary).

    I will look forward to the discussion on your blog about this book!

    Take care!
    Jill =)

  3. famous - I hope you like it, it was very compelling

    jill - he didn't have anything wrong with him, other than he was basically a sociopath, no empathy or caring for anything, but smart enough to know the 'right' things to say.

  4. I have no idea where I saw this book, but I put it on my TBR list right afterwards. I'm glad to read a positive review about it. :)

  5. I just finished reading this book, and you are right about the narrator being unlikeable. I disliked her so much that I couldn't fathom why the author would choose to make her so nasty. I guess I still can't fathom it.

  6. kookie - she was selfish, for sure, but I think the hardness came after, as she looked back. There are probably lots of people who resent their kids more than they admit, but she was forced to admit it. I still don't blame her for Kevin - he was the way he was.

  7. I'm not so sure, Raidergirl. Children can sense when people don't like them and Eva didn't like Kevin from day one. The fact that he couldn't latch on to her for breastfeeding, she took as a personal affront....from a baby! She was a bad egg.

  8. Maybe she needed to be unlikeable so it would be believable that she gave birth to Kevin? And I think Shriver wanted the nature/nurture debate left unanswered, so it had to be possible he was just born a sociopath, but it also had to be possible that it was society's fault or his parents' fault, too.

    On the other hand, I've read two of Shriver's books now and have yet to like one of her characters. And I find myself offended far more frequently in her books than I ever am with other writers. Still, she's such a gripping storyteller.

  9. Ooooo, creepy, I'm visiting you from the future. Okay, I didn't realize you'd read this book until following a link of yours in May 2009. Anyway, I have this book and have not been able to read it because I hate the title so much. Isn't that horrible? You make a very convincing case that I should.


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