We Need to Talk about Kevin

We Need to Talk about Kevin

by Lionel Shriver

Paperback(Movie Tie-in Edition)

$15.29 $16.99 Save 10% Current price is $15.29, Original price is $16.99. You Save 10%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Wednesday, November 21

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062119049
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 12/27/2011
Series: P.S. Series
Edition description: Movie Tie-in Edition
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 121,023
Product dimensions: 5.36(w) x 8.22(h) x 1.04(d)

About the Author

Lionel Shriver's novels include The New Republic, So Much for That, The Post-Birthday World, and the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin. Her journalism has appeared in The Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications.

Hometown:

Brooklyn, New York, and London, England

Date of Birth:

May 18, 1957

Place of Birth:

Gastonia, North Carolina

Education:

B.A., Barnard College of Columbia University, 1978; M.F.A. in Fiction Writing, Columbia University, 1982

Read an Excerpt

We Need to Talk About Kevin
A Novel

November 8, 2000

Dear Franklin,

I'm unsure why one trifling incident this afternoon has moved me to write to you. But since we've been separated, I may most miss coming home to deliver the narrative curiosities of my day, the way a cat might lay mice at your feet: the small, humble offerings that couples proffer after foraging in separate backyards. Were you still installed in my kitchen, slathering crunchy peanut butter on Branola though it was almost time for dinner, I'd no sooner have put down the bags, one leaking a clear viscous drool, than this little story would come tumbling out, even before I chided that we're having pasta tonight so would you please not eat that whole sandwich.

In the early days, of course, my tales were exotic imports, from Lisbon, from Katmandu. But no one wants to hear stories from abroad, really, and I could detect from your telltale politeness that you privately preferred anecdotal trinkets from closer to home: an eccentric encounter with a toll collector on the George Washington Bridge, say. Marvels from the mundane helped to ratify your view that all my foreign travel was a kind of cheating. My souvenirs -- a packet of slightly stale Belgian waffles, the British expression for "piffle" (codswallop!) -- were artificially imbued with magic by mere dint of distance. Like those baubles the Japanese exchange -- in a box in a bag, in a box in a bag -- the sheen on my offerings from far afield was all packaging. What a more considerable achievement, to root around in the untransubstantiated rubbish of plain old New York state and scrounge a moment of piquancy from a trip to the Nyack Grand Union.

Which is just where my story takes place. I seem finally to be learning what you were always trying to teach me, that my own country is as exotic and even as perilous as Algeria. I was in the dairy aisle and didn't need much; I wouldn't. I never eat pasta these days, without you to dispatch most of the bowl. I do miss your gusto.

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 always feel furtive there. To compensate, I force my back straight, my shoulders square. I see now what they mean by "holding your head high," and I am sometimes surprised by how much interior transformation a ramrod posture can afford. When I stand physically proud, I feel a small measure less mortified.

Debating medium eggs or large, I glanced toward the yogurts. A few feet away, a fellow shopper's frazzled black hair went white at the roots for a good inch, while its curl held only at the ends: an old permanent grown out. Her lavender top and matching skirt may have once been stylish, but now the blouse bound under the arms and the peplum served to emphasize heavy hips. The outfit needed pressing, and the padded shoulders bore the faint stripe of fading from a wire hanger. Something from the nether regions of the closet, I concluded, what you reach for when everything else is filthy or on the floor. As the woman's head tilted toward the processed cheese, I caught the crease of a double chin.

Don't try to guess; you'd never recognize her from that portrait. She was once so neurotically svelte, sharply cornered, and glossy as if commercially gift wrapped. Though it may be more romantic to picture the bereaved as gaunt, I imagine you can grieve as efficiently with chocolates as with tap water. Besides, there are women who keep themselves sleek and smartly turned out less to please a spouse than to keep up with a daughter, and, thanks to us, she lacks that incentive these days.

It was Mary Woolford. I'm not proud of this, but I couldn't face her. I reeled. My hands went clammy as I fumbled with the carton, checking that the eggs were whole. I rearranged my features into those of a shopper who had just remembered something in the next aisle over and managed to place the eggs on the child-seat without turning. Scuttling off on this pretense of mission, I left the cart behind, because the wheels squeaked. I caught my breath in soup.

I should have been prepared, and often am -- girded, guarded, often to no purpose as it turns out. But I can't clank out the door in full armor to run every silly errand, and besides, how can Mary harm me now? She has tried her damnedest; she's taken me to court. Still, I could not tame my heartbeat, nor return to dairy right away, even once I realized that I'd left that embroidered bag from Egypt, with my wallet, in the cart.

Which is the only reason I didn't abandon the Grand Union altogether. I eventually had to skulk back to my bag, and so I meditated on Campbell's asparagus and cheese, thinking aimlessly how Warhol would be appalled by the redesign.

By the time I crept back the coast was clear, and I swept up my cart, abruptly the busy professional woman who must make quick work of domestic chores. A familiar role, you would think. Yet it's been so long since I thought of myself that way that I felt sure the folks ahead of me at checkout must have pegged my impatience not as the imperiousness of the secondearner for whom time is money, but as the moist, urgent panic of a fugitive ...

We Need to Talk About Kevin
A Novel
. Copyright © by Lionel Shriver. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Reading Group Guide

Introduction

In a series of compelling and introspective letters to her estranged husband, Franklin, Eva Khatchadourian dissects her married life and her mothering of her son Kevin and daughter Celia in the aftermath of Kevin's Columbine-like school slaying of seven classmates, a cafeteria worker, and a teacher.

Worried that her son's murderousness might have resulted from her deficits as a mother, Eva probes the most intimate and shocking aspects of her inner life, her marriage and her resentment of motherhood. This literary page-turner tackles the sensitive proposition that mothers can be unmoved by -- and even dislike -- their own children. Eva struggles with her lack of ready emotion when Kevin is first placed in her arms and with the subsequently hellish years of parenting a boy who both refuses to speak until the age of 3 and be potty trained until the age of 6, and who seems to enjoy nothing but the taunting of his mother. Having dramatically scaled back on her satisfying and profitable career, Eva becomes a stay-at-home mom who discovers that her son, while seemingly slow, is whip-smart and vindictive -- and cunning enough to play for his father with disastrous results. We Need To Talk About Kevin is a searing and complex look at the reasons couples decide to have children, the parent-child relationship, marriage, and the limits of love and loyalty.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Non-maternal, ambivalent mothers are one of the last taboos -- and Eva is a prime example. Were her motives for having a baby entirely selfish? And if so, how much can that have factored into the outcome of an abnormally difficult baby and apathetic child? Incontrast to Kevin, Celia was loving, needy and sweet -- and her mother's favorite, if not her father's. By the very end of the novel, has Eva's love for Kevin, or at least her primitive loyalty to him, finally become unconditional? How does this fit in with the feminist ideal of motherhood?

  2. Is Eva's view of Kevin colored by her ambivalence about motherhood in general, or perhaps by hindsight knowledge of his eventual violence? Is Eva responsible for creating a child she sees as a monster, or was he a monster all along?

  3. Eva's tone changes throughout the course of her letter-writing. She is in turns angry, frustrated and mystified. Could you describe Eva as a loving mother -- in deed if not in thought? Was Kevin overly indulged by a parenting style that let him potty train and learn at his own pace?

  4. Did the inclusion of a child into Eva and Franklin's stable, loving relationship cause the rift between them? Did the fact of a child threaten their marriage? How was Kevin perceived as a threat by Eva from conception? What expectations did Eva have of motherhood and how did she meet the reality of it? Was Franklin unsupportive of Eva?

  5. The irony of Eva having read Robin Hood to an ailing, needy Kevin at a time of almost shocking mother-son bonding is played out in the way Kevin massacred his fellow students and the teacher who took an interest in him. Since it is Eva who connects Kevin's fevered state with her recollection of his unusual interest in anything whatsoever, is it possible that Kevin's methods were meant to figuratively slay his mother?

  6. After Eva throws Kevin across the room, she takes him to the hospital. She confesses later on to Franklin, "However much I deserved rebuke, I still preferred the slow burn of private self-excoriation to the hot lash of public reproof." Are Eva's letters to Franklin her form of self-excoriation, though she is suffering public reproof as the mother of a mass murderer?

  7. Does Eva feel responsible for Kevin's series of nasty deeds and childhood "pranks?" Does she think she could have prevented any of it? Does she come to realize why Kevin would harm other children or does she give up trying to understand? How can we sympathize with a mother and father who saw all the warning signs but failed to stop the violence?

  8. Given that the story is told from Eva's perspective only, can she be trusted as reliable? How do you think Franklin's version of events would have differed? Might Eva choose to portray Kevin in childhood as more wicked than he really was, if only to make her seem less culpable for his crimes as a teenager?

  9. What were Eva's reasons for having a second child? Did Franklin forgive her for the deception? Was she repentant? How closely were her expectations met and was she gratified? How did Franklin's attitude toward Kevin and Celia differ?

  10. Toward the end of the novel, it is revealed that Kevin has more complicated feelings about his mother and some of the 9 people he murdered. This gives us a hint as to why he might have carefully planned and carried out Thursday. Does he seem pathetic or more deserving of compassion because he may have had a motive, after all?

  11. At the conclusion of the novel, did you find Eva sympathetic in a way you may not have initially? Do you think Eva has sympathy and forgiveness for herself? Is she able to accept Kevin, and to see his personality as, however uncomfortably, akin to her own?

About the Author

Lionel Shriver is a novelist whose previous books include The Female of the Species, Ordinary Decent Criminals, A Perfectly Good Family, and Double Fault. She writes frequently for the Wall Street Journal and Economist, and lives in London and New York.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

We Need to Talk about Kevin 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 304 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finshed this excellent novel and I am overwhelmed. The writing is outstanding, and I have not been able to stop thinking about these characters. Kevin is a sociopath AND he is evil. Mostly, I am struck by Eva's love for Kevin, which is apparent throughout, but especially at the end of the story. This novel is thought- provoking, disturbing and frightening. I highly recommend this novel to readers who love to figure out the endings (I did, with the help of wonderfully placed clues) of incredibly well written books. Truly the best novel I've read in a long while!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' because of the subject matter. Not because it was about a killing spree at a high school, but because it was told from the viewpoint of the mother of the boy who killed his classmates and a teacher. It puts a twist on the 'common' Columbine-like story. The novel begins after the melee, as the mother, Eva, traces the history of her son Kevin back through his days as an infant, through all his apathy and wicked stunts growing up. She tells Kevin's story in long letters written every other week or so to her estranged husband. At first, this seemed like the actions of a crazy woman trying to re-establish her marriage. But who on Earth would ever want to reconcile with a nagging, pretentious woman who uses long diatribes with $10 words to fault you throughout your marriage? Not until halfway through the novel was my interest fully grabbed and I didn't tire of reading another whiny letter from Eva. Up until that point, Eva comes off as a pompous woman with whom I really couldn't relate...and really didn't want to. You later realize, though, that this perspective is probably the way Kevin viewed her and why he held such resentment for his mother. The story itself is a good example of the old Nature vs. Nurture debate. Are people inherently born evil? Or is it based on the way they're raised? Although this novel doesn't answer the question, it gives credence to both arguments and can make for an interesting discussion. The ending of the novel is very dramatic and offers an interesting manipulation in events, which I appreciated. At that point, I was absorbed into the characters' lives and actually wanted more. I felt like a part of their 'dysfunctional' family. The characters felt real, with the exception of Franklin, Kevin's father, who resembled the 'golly gee' Mike Brady from The Brady Bunch (the movie version, not the TV one). It's hard to believe that Eva would ever marry such a naïve man. After finishing the novel, my only disappointment (and boredom) with the actual writing was that the author used an overload of detail to tell what turns out to be an excellent story. (My Creative Writing teacher would have scratched red lines through numerous sentences and paragraphs, as they seemed extraneous). Less is more! If I learned anything from reading this book, it can be summed up in this one sentence: 'You can call it innocence or you can call it gullibility, but [she] made the most common mistake of the good-hearted: she assumed that everyone else was just like her.' On that note...don't watch your back, watch what's in front of you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the most brutally honest books I have ever read. Taking such a different slant on such a tragedy was thought provoking. An unforgettable look at our culture and getting right to the core.
adnilws More than 1 year ago
I was taken by the book's honest portrayal of what can be a difficult mother/child relationship and then the whole family relationship centering around an emotionally distanced child. The book moved carefully, gradually more intrigueing as the relationships emerged. Excellent read.
Shadow5618 More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best books I have ever read. Yes, it's wordy, like most of Lionel Shriver's books, and yes, she doesn't always use the simplest of words. And yes, you need more than a 6th grade education to appreciate it. The quintessential question of nature vs. nurture which is the main theme of this book is one that more people ought to be thinking about in these troubled times. Can a child be born bad? Or can you mold the child to BE bad? Eva struggles with this question throughout the book as it races (and yes, I said races!) to it's horrifying climax. I couldn't put this book down, and when I finished it promptly read it again to see what I had missed the first time. Shriver always has a twist in her books that you never see coming, and this one took my breath away. (If you liked this book, read her "So Much for That".) I think Lionel Shriver is BRILLIANT, and this novel should be mandatory for anyone who is even thinking about having children.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book was interesting. When I finished, I was amazed that the author could write a book with an ending that made you feel like everything may be ok. But, then I started to see some darker interpretations of the ending. Like some of the other reviewers, I approached this book with some trepidation. But it was ok. Of course, my children are grown and so the topic is not so close to home. I guess my final conclusion is that it is a very good book, but that just may be because it didn't disturb me deeply as I was afraid it might. It's a nice bit of fiction and doesn't have any deep insight into the problem of children committing murder or even into families.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was pleasantly surprised at how great this book was. Although the book is a bit slow in the begining it does pick up and you find yourself guessing how it's going to end...my guess was off the mark. Although you're not given a clear cut answer as to WHY Kevin did what he did you can draw your own conclusions based on all the 'tell tell' signs of his childhood. I don't think that Eva was any more of a 'villain' than Franklin was an absentee disciplinarian. Children DO crave boundaries. Perhaps Kevin would have responded differently had their parental tactics been role reversed? The end of the book was marvelous and showed that Kevin wasn't this super human bad seed and a mother's love no matter how cold and aloof she may be perceived IS in fact unconditonal in every sense.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is an incredible read. The narrator writes letters to her husband, revisiting their lives together both before and after the birth of their son. Fifteen year-old Kevin has murdered 7 of his classmates, a teacher and a cafeteria worker. The mother speaks matter-of-factly, talking about how she felt about the child from the moment he was born, how she is seen and treated by the community in general and by the families of her son's murdered classmates. She reminisces, scatters hints and then quietly drops bombshell after horrific bombshell concerning her life with her family. A well-crafted psychological sketch of the ultimate dysfunctional family- I highly recommend this tale.
FoggyBiker More than 1 year ago
The writer uses language well, in my humble opinion - if only she had used it to tell a story, instead of having the story unfold in letters. No woman in the universe - no matter how austere, educated, narcissistic, etc. - could have penned these letters. It was simply unbelievable that such letters could ever have been written. Shriver should simply have told us her story, instead of infusing the book with unrealistic letters from wife to estranged husband. I could not stop rolling my eyes and wondering who on Earth would write like this. Answer: Nobody. Not today, not in 1800, not ever. It was that bad. I look forward to the movie in this instance, knowing that Tilda Swinton can save it. I hope they don't have her reading letters for 2 hours though. Skip it and hope the film is better.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel is very odd. For one thing, i would have liked it if the book touched more on the shooting and why he did it. Also, i didn't like the format of the character writing letters to the husband. It was great in the beginning, but than it slowed by the middle and got worse in the end. Couldnt even finish it.
code7r More than 1 year ago
“We Need to Talk About Kevin” is a fictional story of a mother who is desperate to figure out why her 15 year old son would carry out his plan to murder in cold blood seven classmates, an English teacher, and a cafeteria worker while on school grounds. Evoking memories of Erik Harris and Dyland Klebold, Kip Kinkel, and other youth who bring bloodshed to school, this book tries to show the life of how one teenager may make this fatal decision and perhaps the signs that should have been seen leading up to it. I’m not sure if the author was trying to point out that there are always signs, but often parents don’t want to see them. It definitely felt that this was what she was trying to do with the child in this story, Kevin Khatchadourian. It also helped to illustrate what happens to the family that is left to deal with the aftermath. The story is told in letters that the mother, Eva Khatchadourian, writes to her husband who is no longer in the picture. It isn’t clear until the end why he is not there. Did he blame her for what happened? The book is written for the general reader who is interested in trying to understand what makes schoolyard killers to, first, desire to kill, and second, to actually follow through on it. Were their signs that should have been seen while the child was young that the parents missed? Were they born this way? Nature v. Nurture is definitely a running theme. To be honest, I found the first half of the book tiresome to get through and also stopped reading. It seemed like it was mostly about a “woe is me” mother and how life has been unfair about her. I wasn’t interested in how unfortunate she felt in how her life turned out, but how her son came to be who he was. Luckily, the story picks up about half-way and becomes less about the mother and more about Kevin and also about Kevin’s father and sister. The second half was hard to put down and I was glad that I didn’t give up on the book. “We Need to Talk About Kevin” is a book whose subject matter is apt to get most people’s attention. We all desire to get into the minds of people who do acts that are so unthinkable so that we can understand why they did what they did. Could they have been stopped? Were they just misunderstood? We never really find out in this book since it is told from the viewpoint of the mother. Seeing how she had to deal with the consequences was definitely interesting. She struggles to figure out what could have been done differently and will probably never find an answer to that. As a reader, I would love to see a companion book that tells this story from Kevin’s point of view. Overall this was an interesting read and the second half of the book really picks up, whereas I felt the first half was hard to get through. I am glad that I stuck with it because it did come to the point where I wasn’t able to put down the book until its conclusion.
JennGrrl More than 1 year ago
This book is difficult to get into at first, but stick with it. It's worth it at the end. This is about a completely dysfunctional family. The parents have a son, Kevin, that they don't realize is going down a road that is, ultimately, going to affect the entire family, and several other families in the community. Kevin is not getting everything he wants or needs out of life, so he turns to violence as the answer. This novel not only goes through Kevin's emotions and thoughts, but also through his parents. I found myself getting completely angry at Kevin's parents. Instead of realizing that they made mistakes and realizing that the entire situation was completely preventable, they instead throw have a huge pity party. It was so completely frustrating to me to read that, but the truth is, I can only imagine that a lot of parents are like that in similar situations. Stick it out to the end. It's really worth it. Not only is this one of the strangest school shootings I've ever read of (thank goodness it's fiction), but it's amazing to go through all of the aftermath with Kevin's family.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was painful, insightful, gripping, and heartstopping. Even though you know the result or 'end' from the beginning, the storytelling is so incredible, and filled with suspense, you simply must read on to the horrifying final 50 pages. Lionel Shriver is now a favorite writer for me!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Figuring out the ending early made turning the page difficult sometimes. The deliberate tone and detail of Eva's letters forced me to read so much more slowly than usual. I loved that the conclusion avoided being pat or trite. This is an amazing book, that as a new mother, will haunt me for quite a while. It is NOT for the squeamish or ultra-sensitive.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book did get off on a slow foot. The first few chapters were excruciating, but the after Kevee Wevee was born the story takes off. Attachment disorder, non empathetic, sociopath. All of these catch phrases come to mind as you read about the life of this 'healthy, happy boy' (Daddy's words). The ending was a complete suprise, but it was eluded to very subtly in places. All in all a good read. Aside: I thought Mom had some parallels to the main character in ACCIDENTAL TOURIST by Ann Tyler.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel was as disturbing as it was brilliant. I sometimes had to force myself to continue reading, but am glad I did. As a mother myself, who cannot fathom the idea of not feeling that love of your child, I felt sorry for Eva. She did love him, he was just unlovable. It makes you think, is that how all these school shooter types start? As difficult children whose parents try their damnedest to connect, only to be constantly being rebuffed and at some points, abused? It makes you wonder, and it makes you take a look at your children and wonder if, God forbid, they were to commit an awful crime would you stand behind them? I've seen parents sit behind the defendants table weep at the trials of their children, wondering themselves, how did my sweet baby do THIS? Did I miss clues? These parents are often vilified along with their children, assuming they were neglectful and provoked this behavior. The author makes you examine the story from all angles, just as she herself (Eva) does, trying to figure out how it happened. It begs the question, did Kevin spare his mother to punish her or to show love in his own way? When he gives her the "gift" at the end, and finally expresses remorse, you wonder if he is being rehabilitated or just finally becoming aware of the true enormity of his crimes. Also, the movie was brilliantly acted and portrayed the book perfectly. Ezra Miller was brilliant and scarily believable (but he's been brilliant in everything he's done), Tilda Swinton was so perfectly Eva it was amazing to watch. John C. Reilly could have been casted better, he's a little less handsome than I imagined he'd be. Oh well, still and amazing read and movie. Worth reading and worth pushing through to the end.
PokrChick More than 1 year ago
A good story that is overshadowed by the writing. I can't imagine how any reader isn't distracted by the author's over-the-top use of a thesaurus!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved reading this book. I think the author made Eva write in $10 words because that was Eva's nature. She was a highly intelligent, though pretentious, woman, a snob to some degree, and her precise choice of words would seem to fit. I thought the author described what it is like to be traumatized really well. The book enthralled me and I actually loved looking up the words she used in order to get the full meaning of the sentences.
Soozviews More than 1 year ago
This book was my book club's selection. I don't think I would have picked it up otherwise. I'm glad I read it, but the descriptions of the disturbing things Kevin is capable of are not for the faint of heart. I didn't foresee the book's ending and was surprised. There are so many questions that surface after reading We Need to Talk About Kevin. Blame? Nurture or Nature? Was Kevin a monster or a complicated, super intelligent child crying out for honest interaction with his parents. The story and its questions will stay with you for a very long time.
eloquence08 More than 1 year ago
This book was hard to rate, but only because the first 150 pages were so hard to read. The author was preparing the back story, but the wordy language made it tedious to read. I also felt like it wasn't all that necessary to the main story. The book really picks up once you start exploring the mother and son's relationship as he grows up. The ending alone make this book worth reading. I would basically describe it as a very slow crescendo to something pretty great.
Michelle1948 More than 1 year ago
This story was difficult to read. Mental illness in children is a difficult discussion. Some of this book was wandering and I found myself skipping pages. This might be good for group discussion but this is not a book that will stay on my bookshelf....
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to admit that I was a tad nervous about reading this but felt that the person recommending it had a good reputation (she recommended 'The Glass Castle'). But, I didn't imagine that I would be so engrossed in this story and I was surprised by some of the ending(s). I give Lionel shriver credit for pointing out what so many people /parents refuse to acknowledge. In this age of autism (ok, very different from Kevin), it has to be a real slog to 'enjoy' having children. So, my heart goes out to Eva first and foremost. Then, I look at Franklin and imagine how betrayed he must have felt after deluding himself into believing Kevin loved him. Of course, the innocent of them all- Celia. Trusting her twisted brother when he proved time and time again, that he was a nasty, miserable person. I will recommend it to others and look forward to reading all of her other books. Thanks for writing this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was not at all what I expected it to be. Typically I can read a book in 2- 3 days and it took me 2 weeks to read this one. Very hard to keep up with...just dragged on and on.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not only did this book's ending blow me away, but throughout the novel the author brilliantly weaves in subtle hints at the dramatic climax. It started a little slow, but once you read a few chapters it is a tough book to put down. This book left me thinking about many issues...great book for someone who enjoys what I call 'reader's residue.' Enjoy.
asukamaxwell on LibraryThing 3 days ago
This book is one of the most compelling works I've ever read. It is both terrifying and fascinating, and extremely well-written. To the point where you are forced to remind yourself that this is indeed fiction, and not the tragic memories of a broken family. When society is struck by an event so terrible that it unnerves us, we rush to find a reason, an explanation. Why? But what if a reason cannot be pin-pointed. A single effect doesn't necessarily have a single cause. This is what it is like to read through the psychological development of Kevin. Or as his mother, Eva, states, "Me, I think you only get a gist by assembling all the tiny inconclusive anecdotes...that seem irrelevant until you collect them in a pile."Eva Katchadourian is self-described as "selfish, mean, and small-minded." Selfish perhaps, but small-minded and mean I think not. Her mother has been a recluse ever since her father died as a soldier overseas. This caused her to have a burning desire for freedom, which manifests itself as the cosmopolitan CEO of a travel guide company, "Wing and a Prayer." She admits to having a fascination with maps, which she associates with mastery over her life. However, it also forced her mind to create high expectations of the world around her. She refers to this as her "underfear, " a constant nagging fear of being disappointed. Criticism is her mind's safeguard. One can't be disappointed if something is inherently flawed. Thus one the major milestones of her life, the birth of her first child, "was going wrong from the start." "In the very instant of his birth, I associated Kevin...with not only suffering, but defeat." At first this seems very cruel, cold, and unthinkable, but not without reason. An encounter with some neighborhood boys as a child left Eva "truly frightened by boys." Note she says "boys," not "men." As far as Eva knows, her father is an icon on the mantle, a man she hardly knew, but had to revere. It is this kind of blind adoration of her father, that I believe caused Eva to form a subtle dependence on her husband. Yes Eva is intelligent, cultured, and wealthy in her own right, but after Kevin is born, she will not share the sole object of her affection. Mind, what we read is Eva in hindsight. She considers her eyes closed until they were fully opened by Kevin. She considers herself mean, because she has had time for self-reflection. Had not Kevin performed these acts, she may never have realized any of this, or feel any form of regret. Now that she has, we can say that there is goodness in her, even if that realization came too little too late.Meet Kevin's father and Eva's husband Franklin. She describes his parent's as rational, purposeful people with little imagination. Therefore Franklin has always known there to be an answer for everything. There is nothing wrong with Kevin, for that would imply a cause, something his mind refuses to address. Eva often refers to his need to fit the mold of the perfect American family. His denial of Kevin's behavior even goes so far as to undermine his wife's pleads and protests. This "Kevin-can-do-no-wrong" mind-set makes Franklin open to manipulation. What he believes is confidence, is just Kevin telling him what he wants to hear. To discipline Kevin is again, to imply that Kevin is "defective." After all, Franklin's family motto is "Materials are everything." If a material is defective, it must be gotten rid of. This is absurd to him. He remains optimistic and avoids confrontation out of self-preservation. He tries to act closer to Kevin with gifts, but since Franklin cannot be honest with himself, he never earns Kevin's trust. Finally there is Kevin Katchadourian. The boy who found "the secret" to true apathy. It's said that babies can sense the feelings of their mother even while inside the womb. That may be true to Kevin, for he came out feeling like a disappointment. Although rejecting the touch of his mother as a baby, Kevin craves the attention of his father. B