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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Book Review – Big Brother by Lionel Shriver

Okay, I’m going to have to be honest here. I only picked up this book because I was looking for another title by the same author (We need to talk about Kevin). I’ve read wonderful reviews on that book, but since it was unavailable (I will give a review on that when I find it) – I settled on this one.

This is a story of how a family copes with a sibling (namely the wife’s brother) who is deemed to be socially unacceptable (read: severely, morbidly obese) staying with them for a couple of months, how the situation turns their lives upside down and what the sister/wife does to help him to attempt to return him to his pre-obesity glory. It doesn’t help that her husband is a health nut, cycling twenty miles a day, eating whole grains, staying off sugar, etc. It also doesn’t help that the wife/sister didn’t know his husband when he was a health nut, and how he refuses to eat her regular cooking now and the stresses of living with somebody with a totally different lifestyle.

I will not spoil the story, but the journey of her brother and her was rather interesting and reflects the struggle some of us have with dieting and weight loss issues in a very real sort of way (don’t expect a documentary though). We also see the struggle between romantic relations (husband and wife) vs family relations (brother and sister), as well as the movement of the figurative cognitive cogs when making a choice of one over the other.

An okay read, but lacks excitement. Expect mild drama only. Informative and insightful peep into the minds of people who are currently dieting. A mediocre book for daytime read.

Rating: 3/5