Tuesday, March 22, 2011

We Need to Talk About Kevin

by Lionel Shriver

Through a series of letters, Eva Khatchadourian reflects on the “history” of her son, Kevin, and the broader history of the family she shared with her husband, Franklin. Why? Well, Eva is searching for answers in the wake of a school massacre that was planned and executed by Kevin.

Our story begins with the knowledge that Kevin has killed several classmates and staff members. Eva takes the reader back to life before Kevin was conceived. Eva has a successful travel book biz and isn’t quite sure that she wants a baby. But she goes forward with the pregnancy anyway. Franklin is so eager to start a family; surely, Eva will eventually share his enthusiasm.

The birth of Kevin does not thrill Eva. Eva never seems able to bond with Kevin, and well, Kevin appears to be the bad seed.

The question is: could Eva’s attitude toward Kevin be the root of his bad behavior? Eva certainly shares her true feelings about Kevin, no matter how ugly they are. She can be alienating, and one could see how she might be accused of not being the best mother possible. But is that a crime?

For me, Eva’s tale is a cautionary tale. She never really wanted to have a child, so it’s her luck that the child she does have turns out to be a monster. For me, Eva is a sympathetic character, and her husband is a naïve idiot.

This is a highly engaging and intense look at the circumstances of a school massacre. Shriver puts a different spin on the usual melodramatic novel and forces readers to choose a side, reflect on the evidence, choose a side, reflect on the evidence. . .

Highly recommended.


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