Title: We Need to Talk About Kevin
Author: Lionel Shriver
Publisher: Harper Perennial (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: April 15, 2003 (first edition)
You can only say so many times that a book is on your MUST read list or that you reallly want to read a book before you have to actually pick it up and do it. So I finally am in the know both about this book as well as the style and talent of the author herself. Although I was utterly depressed by the end (which didn't really happen to me until about the last 50 pages), I'm glad I read this because it was so amazing in its content, its writing, its characters and psychology. It's the kind of book I'm glad to say I have read. And I'm really curious about the author's other work as well... are all her books like this?
We know from the beginning that Kevin, son of the narrator, Eva, has perpetrated a mass
murder at his high school. In letters that Eva writes to her husband,
Franklin, she recaptures their lives from the beginning when she first
made the decision to have a child despite never having quite felt
maternal desires. She then chronicles their relationships with their son as well as the various misgivings she had about him. Whereas Eva never felt truly bonded to him, Franklin passion for this child was overkill.
At first, this novel's epistolary format was strange to me only because having Eva essentially narrate their lives back to her husband didn't make sense to me. Eventually I got used to it and also decided if nothing else it must have been therapeutic for her so that it made more sense in my head. One of the points of this book was to invoke thoughts about the nature vs nurture debate. While I suppose it did that, I actually thought that Kevin was so extreme from the beginning that this book truly fought for the side of nature. Or if it was making a fight for nurture, it wasn't so much Eva but Franklin's pure ignorance that I think influenced anything. I've read of other readers severely disliking Eva, but for the most part I liked her.
Despite the serious and depressing nature of the book, I was enthralled... by the psychology of if all as well as by Lionel's writing style which was not just astute but so intelligently crafted. I felt my brain growing smarter just by reading her book, haha. (I'll admit there were times in the beginning when it felt clunky with what I thought were unnecessary high brow adverbs and adjectives. But I must have gotten used to it).
But then the last 50 pages or so left me so bereft -- shockingly upset considering I knew more or less where it was going. I felt evil leaking off the pages and I wondered what it must have been like to even write this book. Was it as horrifying as it was to read? Then the very ending, the last page or so, was exactly as I figured it would be. This is definitely a book I will highly recommend to those who think they can stomach the atrocities within its pages.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5