Lionel Shriver’s novel We Need To Talk About Kevin, which has recently been adapted for the big screen (with Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly), continues to linger in your mind even after you’ve finished reading it.
As we all know, in America, unfortunately school shootings happen. Whether it’s because the person was bullied, they’re sadistic, or they just want to cause uproar, it continues to happen. And therefore, the media, in all shapes and forms, continues to exploit it. Jodi Picoult’s 19 Minutes focuses on the story of a boy who kills and grievously injures many of his schoolmates and the different viewpoints of the event; the boy himself, the mother, the girl who was once friends with him, the lawyer, the judge, the cop and those who survived but are changed, for the worst, because of it.
Then there is Gus Van Sant’s 2003 film, Elephant, which re-enacts the Columbine shootings, a massacre that killed 12 students and one teacher.
So, what would be the point of reading We Need To Talk About Kevin? It’s been done before, and reliving these events in never fun. However, before you’ve made up your mind, please reconsider.
The difference between the above examples and this novel is that the story isn’t told through Kevin, the 16 year old boy who decided to shoot nine people at his school. It’s told through letters written from his mother, Eva, to her husband, Franklin.
Instead of what happened AFTER the shootings (although this is mentioned), the focus on this book is largely about the relationship between Eva and her son Kevin, whom she had later in life, when she thought she had everything. It goes through how she didn’t particularly like him as a child, and that while he did nasty things, her husband, Franklin, always failed to see it. Then, she re-lives how she has a second child, Celia, which changes her perspective on motherhood, but she reinforces what she feels for Kevin. It also continually mentions the trials that occurred after the shootings, in particular when she is sued for basically being a “bad mother”.
And, what I thought most important of all, while writing the letters, she continually tells Franklin how much she loves him, despite everything.
What I liked about this book was that it made an unfortunately common event different. This isn’t a book necessarily about hate, or violence, but rather the relationships that form within a family, and in particular, a relationship between a mother and her child.
It is an incredibly well-written book, and the ending will both shock and (without giving it away) hurt you. Eva’s character never stops telling the truth, and we learn all about her flaws, of which there are many, yet at the end of the novel you are still backing her.
I’d definitely suggest reading this book, or at the very least watching the film. Let me know what you think!