we need to talk about kevin (novel)

After every school shooting (and there have been many – and not just in the United States) the news reports become saturated with expert insights and armchair analyses of the shooter. Was he disturbed? Was he sad? Was he bullied? Classmates are interviewed, and a picture is painted of the teenage outcast turned murderer. Such an extensive coverage, but I have yet to read an in-depth interview with the shooter’s mother. How can we even begin to imagine the pain and guilt of a woman who gave birth to a boy and ended up with a monster?

Lionel Shriver imagined it in this powerful novel. In We Need To Talk About Kevin, Eva Katchadourian writes a series of letters to her husband, eighteen months after their 16-year-old son Kevin killed nine people in his own school. The book is not just about Kevin – it’s about motherhood, marriage, the nature of evil and violence, Middle America, traveling, women and their wants and their bodies, the United States and its shame. It is told through Eva’s eyes, so we as the reader have no choice but to see things as she sees them. Was Kevin truly born evil, or were Eva and her husband partly to blame? I don’t know. It is hard to tell. The novel is absorbing and beautifully written; as suspenseful as any horror story, as insightful as any work of art. Throughout the novel, Shriver manages to withhold an important piece of information from us, and when she reveals it, it feels like an arrow to the chest.

I was in a haze after I finished this book. Stunning.

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