Saturday, September 7, 2013

We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver.

It's still difficult for me to venture into public. You would think, in a country that so famously has "no sense of history," as Europeans claim, that I might cash in on America's famous amnesia. No such luck. No one in this "community" shows any signs of forgetting, after a year and eight months - to the day. So I have to steel myself when provisions run low. Oh, for the clerks at the 7-Eleven on Hopewell Street my novelty has worn off, and I can pick up a quart of milk without glares. But our regular Grand Union remains a gauntlet.

I recently read We Need to Talk About Kevin for a book club I'm in, and I won't lie: it was a hard read to get through, both content- and reading-wise. It's written beautifully, but the author (Shriver) is very descriptive (see above, for example) and it's hard to decide if you feel bad for Eva, the narrator, or if you dislike her.

Official synopsis:
Lionel ShriverEva never really wanted to be a mother - and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin's horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklin. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.

There's a major twist at the end of this novel that many will not see coming - I did, and was hoping I was wrong, as it's a gruesome one, but it was interesting when it actually happened. The book is about Eva, whose son Kevin murdered nine people at high school, and how she tried to be maternal all during his childhood, but found herself to be lacking in that department.

What's interesting about this book is that Eva could have seen it coming: ever since Kevin was a baby, she found him to be disinterested in life, and he always hated her and his father. Once Celia, his sister, was born seven years after him, Eva sees a second chance at motherhood for herself; Kevin just sees another person to torment. At the same time, Kevin is very smart and cunning - he knows enough to pretend to be "a good boy" around his father, and for some reason he only lets his mother see his "dark side."

I would recommend this book, just know that it's hard to get through, as I mentioned before - it's definitely worth reading, but don't expect to breeze through it. A movie with the same name came out recently as well, and I haven't watched it but plan to soon; Tilda Swinton plays Eva, with John C. Reilly as her husband and Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as Kevin.

Shriver really gets into Eva's mind in this novel - how she sees/interprets Kevin, especially - and with school and other shootings so rampant in the U.S. these days, it's interesting to see how one can grow up to "be" a killer;  Kevin certainly had the signs, although Eva does say once the massacre at his school happens that she didn't initially think he was the killer.

4 stars out of 5.


  1. I didn't know this story was a book until I read your post, which is superb. However, I watched the movie and thought it was one of the best movies of that year: splendidly acted, especially by Ezra Miller as the teen Kevin and Swinton as his mother.
    If interested in reading my movie review, here is the link:

    1. Really! I wonder if I would have liked it more or less had I not read the book first.

      What is your link? It didn't come up.



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