Monday, August 13, 2012

We Need to Talk About Kevin

To say that I am reluctant to recommend Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin is a vast understatement. Don't get me wrong, I loved this book. But, it is not for the faint of heart and I think it takes a certain kind of reader, someone not afraid to plumb the depths of not-kind humanity.

I don't think I've ever read anything so profoundly disturbing for its "honesty"--a truth told by a narrator who is not, despite what she has been through, likable. Or even necessarily forgivable. The novel is told through a series of letters written by a mother to her husband after their son has killed several of his classmates. Throughout, she tries to make sense of where she went wrong but yet, at the same time, her voice sizzles with anger. I had a hard time feeling sorry for Eva, which made the story all the more compelling for me. Too rich, too sure of herself, too focused on her work--she is prickly in a way that makes her heartbreakingly human.  

Not an easy read, this is the first book in a very long time that has literally given me nightmares. And I don't even have children! So, you've been warned. But let me say also that this is a book that takes a haunting look at the small things we do, the lies we tell ourselves, the ways in which we get by. I will not soon forget it.


  1. I am so glad you gave this book a chance. And your review is excellent and dead-on accurate. No pun intended. Truly disturbing yet so captivating. I too,like yourself, had a hard time feeling sympathetic or compassionate towards Eva. However, I was strangely compelled to feel for Kevin. Thanks for giving this one a read.

    ---Donkey Ote

  2. Thanks for suggesting it. It's a really haunting book....I'm still finding myself awake at night thinking, "What could Eva have done differently?" (I do think I get too emotionally attached to books but this one really got under my skin!)

  3. It got under my skin too...but that's good right? Putting all of Eva's emotional issues aside (and she did have a few minor ones it seems haha) I think what got to me the most was the fact that it shed light on how some people are just born "different". With no conscience or sense of moral norms. I KNOW people like this. You look in their eyes and see no life spark. No soul. People that you can just look at and know or feel that they don't see the world through the same lens as the rest of us. People that literally are incapable of showing (or feeling) emotions. Their thinking and perceptions are skewed. I think that is what got to me the most. And the fact that Eva could see this in Kevin from day one and no one else could was all too believable to me. Who better than a mother, is best fit to see into the heart and soul of a child? Even a soulless child.
    This book also reminded me of a very similar true story I had read about the Columbine murders. Kevin could have very easily played the part of one of the two teens that performed the killings in that high school. Their personalities matched his perfectly. The book is called, aptly enough "Columbine" and it is written by Dave Cullen. It is one of the most extensive looks into the minds of the two teens I have ever read. But it's not light reading. Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed one of MY recommendations for a change instead of vice versa. Now... maybe..."Sarah's Key"?