Saturday, July 11, 2009

Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin

It's hard to know where to start with Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin. This is the kind of book that is perfect for a book club discussion and yet I am the only person I know that has read this book so I have no one to discuss it with. I picked this up while I was in Bangkok and read it pretty quickly. I thought that it started slow but once it picked up it was difficult to put the book down.

This book is about a fictional school massacre and is told in letter format from the mother's (Eva) point of view. She is writing these letters to her estranged husband, Franklin, and is struggling with blame, guilt, confusion and the aftermath of the massacre. Kevin is 15 and she visits him from time to time in jail.

This book brings up so many questions about motherhood, nature vs. nurture and the influence of media in our society. Was Kevin born evil? Was Eva's reluctance and lack of motherly bonds to blame? Could this tragedy have been prevented? I often felt sorry for Eva, even though I know she doesn't come across very favorably most of the time. Is she blameless? No. But I think she is honest and really sheds light on the shame and expectations our society casts on mothers. Mothers are under a lot of scrutiny and pressure and when something goes wrong they are usually the ones held accountable whether it's their fault or not.

It also makes me think about the lack of support there is for people that make life choices that go against the norm. Does everyone have to have children? Why are people so criticized and questioned when they do something a little differently? What about the shame of postpartum depression? I know that more information and support have been made available recently but there still is a stigma for women who have a hard time accepting the changes and responsibilities that come with motherhood. One thing is for certain- people should definitely be talking and this book raises a lot of important issues.


Elaine said...

Hi! I read this book a couple of years ago and also found it really thought provoking, it's one of my favourites. One of the few books I've read I'd like to read again. I liked how it had an original slant on the high school shooting story, though I did get suspicions about the outcome about halfway through the book. I have read a couple of other Lionel Shirver books and I was really disappointed that I didn't like them as much.

ambearo said...

Ooh! I wish you weren't traveling through everywhere so we could talk about it! Haha! I was wondering how Lionel Shriver's other books were. Pity they aren't as good but she's still pretty young so there's hope for the future.

Sara said...

Amber! I just finished this last month and was wishing for someone to talk it through with as well!
I'm off to bed now but let's find a way to talk!

Sara xxx

ambearo said...

Oooh! We must talk about it Sara!

Bybee said...

I read it, too, and was favorably impressed. Eva is the best unreliable narrator I've seen in quite some time. I was thoroughly engaged as I was reading and asking questions, making prediction. You're right; it is an excellent choice for a book group read.