Book Review – We need to talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver

I usually like to review a book right after I’ve finished reading it and while the story is freshly swimming around in my mind. This way, I can move on to begin reading other books after this while not in some way mentally amalgamating the two stories. I’ve read many rave reviews on this one, and I confess I’ve been rather excited to read it as it sounds just the sort of story which appeals to my twisted mind grey matter, (or everybody  else’s for that matter – though none would admit it).

Let me begin by saying that this is not an easy book to read. Sentences are quite wordy and lengthily constructed, filled with subordinate clauses within subordinate clauses, sometimes several layers deep, utilizing probably every known possible form of words to construct a sentence. This form of writing obviously allows for very flavorful text, streaming-consciousness-style. The letter writing style thankfully helps to frame events better, so you won’t get lost in the sense of time.

Kevin, a sixteen year old, brutally murdered 13 of his classmates in the school gym. Eva, his mother, was obviously devastated. The story is told two years after the incident, in the form of letters written from Eva to her husband, Franklin. They trace the events all the way back from when they were dating up to Kevin’s birth and then his killings (commonly referred to as Thursday). It was revealed to us that Eva never really wanted to be a mother, and the stresses of motherhood, i.e., handling Kevin when he was an infant/child, drove Eva to perhaps cause her behavior to rub off on Kevin. Soulfully insightful, ‘aint it?

I guess the power of imitation sneaks up on you like a shadow, consuming you unknowingly when you least expected it – just like when your kid suddenly curses when she can’t get the cap off the milk carton, and you remember how you muttered ‘fuck’ a week ago in her presence when her brother fell down and wouldn’t stop crying. I digress.

There is a twist at the end of the story, but I wouldn’t call it a very big one. I guess I might have been kind of expecting it, given all the build up towards the end. Frankly, the plot is rather plateaued and doesn’t cause your emotions to spike up and down like some others. That being said, it is still a story worth reading as it explores parenthood vs marriage (in a way), and perhaps is a very apt description of what some parents feel inside, but polite society dictates that that feeling be kept hidden and out of mind.

Rating: 4.5/5



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