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The gripping international bestseller about motherhood gone awryEva never really wanted to be a mother and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students a cafeteria worker and a much adored teacher who tried to befriend him all two days before his sixteenth birthday Now two years later it is time for her to come to terms with marriage career family parenthood and Kevin's horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband Franklin Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails

10 thoughts on “We Need to Talk About Kevin

  1. says:

    I am a little apprehensive as to how I should begin this review there are so many things to talk aboutFirst of all I consider this to be truly a great work of literature not simply fiction As a great writer of my native language said The real story is on the unwritten pages; that is it is the gaps the pauses and the undercurrents between the characters which the reader is forced to complete or imagine which is the mark of great literature This is one hundred percent correct as far as We Need To Talk About Kevin is concerned The novel makes us think long after we finish itIt is not a fast read even though Lionel Shriver writes beautiful prose she writes about ugly things Reading it is almost like self torture under hypnotism; you don't want to do it but once you are into it there's no way to stopThe story is told in epistolary form through the letters Eva Khatchadourian writes to her absent husband Franklin Plaskett Eva is the mother of the infamous Kevin Khatchadourian the architecht of the Gladstone High School massacre Eva's letters are divided into two parts One talks of the current time her travails as the universally shunned mother of the infamous teen the bereaved parents of Kevin's late classmates have slapped a civil suit on her which she is fighting in her typically disinterested manner and visiting her son regularly in the correctional facility where he is incarcerated The other part of the letters traces Kevin from his conception up to the fateful ThursdayAs the story unfolds we get a picture of Eva and Franklin She spirited independent liberal proud of her Armenian heritage and a little contemptuous of her adoptive country he conventional and boringly American Eva as the propreitor of the highly successful travel guidebook franchise A Wing and A Prayer never wanted a child But she succumbs to Franklin's entreaties and conceives Kevin And from the moment he sets foot on earth Eva's life becomes a horror storyKevin through Eva's eyes is portrayed as so evil that we shudder; as he grows up his evil nature also expands To Eva's frustration Franklin remains oblivious to his son's true nature trying to recreate some fictitious American Dream in his backyard Eva and Kevin face off many times during the sixteen years leading to the apotheosis of his career on that Thursday afternoon with Eva always the loserKevin is an odd child from the start He shuns breast milk does not talk even though he has learnt how to until he is three years old and refuses to be toilet trained He is apathetic to everything seeming alive only when he manages to goad Eva into a rage With Franklin he plays the part of the All American Child but mockingly as Eva suspectsKevin's crimes are inferred rather than seen apart from one incident during childhood when he sprays red ink all over Eva's darling maps tacked to the walls of her study his mother does not see a single instance of his misbehaviour if we leave aside that masturbation scene with an open bathroom door But she is oddly sure that in almost all of the incidents he has been in and they are many including one in which his sister is maimed for life he is implicated but she is also convinced that her son is so clever as to hide his true nature from all except a perceptive fewSo the novel slowly moves towards its destructive climax picking up speed and when it occurs it is much than we expect It is a one way ride into darknessLionel Shriver says in the afterword that people who read the novel fall into two camps those who see Kevin as truly evil and Eva as victimised and those who see him as a victim of circumstances mainly an indifferent mother It is easy to see why MsShriver has managed to frame the narrative from the POV of Eva Khatchadourian in such a way that the whole veracity of the tale depends on whether we trust her or not The reader is forced to make a judgement of character and stick by it In short how we see Eva and Kevin will depend a lot on who we areFor such a dark novel frightening than any horror story the novel ends on such a sweetly sentimental note that there was suddenly a lump in my throat Suddenly I remembered that for all his monstrous faults Kevin is still only a childThis book will stay with you for a long time after you walk away from it More importantly it will set you thinking if you are a parent which is not a bad thingFor you see as parents we do need to talk about Kevin We have been silent too long

  2. says:

    Overwritten Arduous BoringSeeing as We Need to Talk About Kevin is famous for being such a gritty disturbing read I always expected to love it in a sick twisted kind of way Unfortunately it is not what I expected at all I had to force myself through one overstuffed sentence after another only to be left feeling drained and dissatisfiedI knew I was in for a paint dryingly slow read almost immediately Every sentence is padded out with big words and details that are clearly there to impress but actually only weigh the narrative down Damn it was hard work And it was made even worse because it's an epistolary novel I couldn't get past the fact that no one would ever talk this way in a letter This is the second sentence and they are all like this 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 Holy shitKevin's crimes are revealed in the very first chapter so it's a struggle to see what we're really reading for I suppose it is an attempt to show how he got to there built up through tedious anecdotes from his childhood but without mystery or action it was merely dull We already know Kevin is a sociopath; we already know he killed a bunch of his fellow studentsI also had no sympathy for Eva In fact I felt a certain amount of anger towards Eva for deciding her baby had an evil agenda that's honestly not even possible and mistreating him I don't buy into any interpretations that Kevin's psychopathic nature was something he was born with it seemed pretty obvious to me that his mother fucked him up from day one Eva was unlikable Kevin was unlikable and Franklin's blind defense of his son despite the contradicting evidence was just plain annoyingThere was nothing to like hereBlog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube | Store

  3. says:

    The pull uote on the cover of the edition I read suggests that it's impossible to put this book down That's almost entirely false Out of the book's 400 pages the first 300 were kind of like pulling teeth Creepy maternal teeth The last 100 pages however were actually and physically impossible to look away from and the brisk pace of the climax after so many pages of buildup actually created a really wonderful complete story that was very satisfying and which god help me made me cry out of a bizarre sense of happiness at the endThis book is a series of letters irritating written from a travel writer wife unsympathetic and irritating to her separated husband tiresome and given 20 seconds and a familiarity with Western literature leading up to an entirely transparent twist These letters start out being about her day to day life and a mediation on their slowly decimated marriage something I really can't relate to but soon they become All About Kevin Kevin being their oldest kid their son and who recently in 2000 shot up a bunch of his fellow high schoolers It's a post Columbine book set in pre 911 America and it's freakishly refreshing to read an entire novel about a national tragedy that neither mentions nor cares about terrorists threat levels Ira or What's Wrong With America?Actually it's vaguely framed around the Florida debacle in the 2000 presidential elections but that event is used to throw into relief how little political issues matter when your family has been destroyed For the most part the narrator Eva talks about Kevin why she decided to have him what it was like to raise him and examine the ways in which she failed as a mother and a wifeIt's weirdly inspiring I mean she is a bad mom Not beating the kids bad but neglectful cold self centeredshe is essentially the kind of woman who could only love a child if that was all she had left And so in a way she ends up raising a child who in a bid for her affection will take everything else away from her It's both sick and touching and a fascinating examination of how we're supposed to move on from tragedy how life continues no matter how much you wish it didn'tKevin himself is perfectly written both sympathetic and absolutely monstrous By the time he's 14 and terrorizing his mother behind his father's back I found myself completely unsurprised by everything as it unfolded Of course he ended up killing 11 people Of course he doesn't regret it Of course I'm not sure at what point if any decent parenting could have saved him and I like that Lionel Shriver managed to write a lengthy book without answering or even addressing that uestionWhat struck me as the most disturbing thing in the long run and what's stuck with me most is that the only thing that seems to scare the kid and the only thing that seems to at least begin to make him snap out of his narcissistic power trip is his impending transfer from juvie to the gen pop of a federal prison The book never gets into it but I found it deeply upsetting that the prison system is so horrible mass murderers are scared of it I kind of felt as if we're supposed to be happy that Kevin's actually scared but I mostly was just creeped out that the system itself had managed to create something even worse than Kevin

  4. says:

    A novel that's elegant overly articulate yet VERY readable So much dexterity is on display here Damn what an amazing writer is a perpetual thought while reading this with a prose made by some wizard's alchemy a talent filled intuition a distinct view that's brutal uncomfortably honest Shriver outshines even Flaubert himself THIS is the very core of feminism of individualism move over Madame Bovary you cared for the idea of love than anything else anyway never really gave a hoot about child rearing An epic book like We Need to Talk About Kevin is rare yeah I can see this as some rather strikingly beautiful monster composed of the few scary parts from Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby and the ominous tones of The Omen It's a modern psychology dissected with words so carefully chosen both intellectual and to the core precise that deconstructs a past for the sake ofsomething I won't tell This one has a DYNAMITE ENDING that will rattle you and then some It is truly pretty much everything you'd ever want in a book Shriver's account is WAAAAAY compelling than Philip Roth's Pulitzer darling American Pastoral they share the theme of the American dream gone bad as parents are betrayed by their own American flag toting offspringRecommended 100% It's a Grade A brilliant contemporary even historically relevant novel

  5. says:

    This book is just devastating and devastatingly good I've just finished it and had a little cry on the balcony in the bright sunshine thinking about my mom and motherhood and blame self recrimination guilt and remorse and parental love and the painfully ambiguous sometimes tortured complexity of it allAnd that is underselling itSuffice for now to say you might not enjoy this if You believe that a lack of maternal instinct or feeling is a character flaw or a moral failing; You come out soundly on the nurture either side of the naturenurture continuum; You believe parents always at some point and for most things need to be held accountable for their child's behaviour; You seek the anxiety uelling solace that pat sociological and psychological theories and labels offer post partum depression sociopathy unconditional positive regardThis novel should I hope blast through any of those preconceptions some of which at some times in my life I've believedShriver turns all of this on its ear and twists some literary and plot conventions to her own purposes at the same time She is steadfast and clear eyed in her determination to dismantle the 'blame the parents' catechism that passes for analysis and explanation of that which is inexplicable in this case a school shooting and the lives events and choices that led to it To do so she creates characters who are unlikeable sometimes deeply so but oh so human even Kevin Unless you're a sociopath which I think is one of her points you cannot help but empathize with each of them at times; hate them at others; give them the benefit of the doubt freuently too freuently perhaps which is anotherWhether or not you are a parent I am not you cannot help but feel that you've been given a rare insight into someone's worst nightmare because you have whatever angle you are viewing from and there is nowhere to go to depersonalize or escape itShriver sidles up to her characters cycling through the subjectivity of a first person narrative from a defense into a self flagellation into an exposition Though the jig was up half way through for me in terms of one of the last plot twists it didn't matter and didn't detract from the facility with which the author employed the epistolary style and the emotional punch it levelledEva's retrospective self analysis through a lens tinged by tragedy guilt and shame gives us a perspective into events and motivations both in hindsight and as they unfold retaining the immediacy and intensity that only a first person account can provide It happened but it is never past because the telling makes it happen in perpetuity which is exactly how trauma works Because of who she is Eva is able to present with alarming clarity that which is unambiguously evil and therefore that which remains ambiguous is doubly so Shriver does not let anyone off the hook these characters are so complex in their humanity and yet they are also Boomer upper middle class shallow which is never reduced to a cliche She also never fails to produce horror infused with the dark comedy to which only its victims or observers from a comfortable distance are entitled and we are neither from sometimes mundane domestic details an eviscerated 3 yr old's birthday cake An exotic pet a clogged drain and a shaver with an inordinately large amount of hair in it A glass eyed antiue doll given as a Christmas present Kevin's rampage like Shriver's prose is revealed in poetic detail I was sometimes shaking with anger while reading I would have smashed the water pistol a half dozen pages earlier yet when Eva finally did her remorse at her ink stained yellow shoe left the justification for the act coloured with her materialistic shallowness and hypocrisy This scene one of so many revealed character in a way that only an absolutely top notch novelist can ever produceHave I said? The writing is brilliant God is in the details in this novel in which every page needs probably to be read a dozen times not that I could bear it And there is substance to go with that style Eva's agoraphobic mother's offer to fly to her after Thursday reduced me to tears as one mother's unconditional love and courage reflected on the other's in a mirror or in relief? Hard to say There are no easy answers here for Eva or for us There is no clear truth or explanation why a matter on which all sides including the reader must against our human desire for explanation order out of chaos resolution reluctantly come to agree This review now is an incoherent ramble unlike Eva's self confessional bibliotherapeutic letters and the novel itself It is still a fresh wound for me and I will need to come back later when I've stanched the flow a bit

  6. says:

    I did not like this book Honestly what was to like about it? The topic is horrifying the characters are hateful and not just the characters that commit mass murders and the writing style is the worst of all From the first page I was SO irritated by the writing I'll bet that the first purchase Ms Shriver made after finding a publisher for this book was a new thesaurus I'm positive that hers was absolutely worn out It was like Hi Let's see how fancy we can sound Especially for a book that is supposedly made up of letters written to one's estranged husband The letter format was an especially poorly chosen literary device I get that we the reader needed background but did Eva really think that her husband needed to be reminded among other things about all the random little details of his childhood? They were his memories after all Why did she need to repeat them to him and in such an arrogant condescending way? And the lists of other school shootings Blah I became extremely tired of reading about those as Eva ticked them off I felt like I was hearing a lecture or a compilation of NPR news stories But speaking of arrogant and condescending here's another problem that I had with this book I happen to reject the idea that the parents are 100% responsible for their children's failures or successes Some children have crappy parents and turn out great and I've seen the opposite happen as well However if any parent could cause a child to go crazyhomicidal it would be this woman Hello being borednot a good reason to have a child Did I really need to say that? Eva was mean negative and overbearing throughout the book And again I realize that with the letter format we are only getting the viewpoint of one limited character but that's not an excuse for making the characters so completely one dimensional Kevin was evil Celia was demure Franklin was naive Eva was obnoxious etc Finally the uestion of the big reveal And I actually do have a uestion about this It was pretty obvious what was going on that there was going to be a big reveal after about page 3 of the book and I'm not talking about the fact that Kevin killed his classmates That was not meant to be a secret It was written in the description on the back of the book My uestion is this was this just poorly written so that what was meant to be a big reveal was well not? Or did Shriver make it obvious on purpose in order to make it awful to read we knew what was going to happen and we didn't want to read it but we were going to have to and were coming closer to it with each page I'm going to give Shriver the benefit of the doubt on this one because if that's what she meant to do it worked

  7. says:

    Immediate reaction after reading I’m so horrified that I feel sick and I’m nearly crying not because of Kevin but for Kevin and I don’t know who to blame any or what to feel or what to think I only know that this book is unlike anything I’ve ever read and in all likelihood will ever readHow can I so deeply love a book that is this agonisingly ugly?? Full review I knew before I started that reading this was going to be hard We Need to Talk about Kevin is listed as one of the most disturbing books on GR So in an attempt to limit the coming agony I made a few rulesRULE 1 Do not get emotionally involvedRULE 2 Do not take sidesRULE 3 Do not dwell on the disturbing partsA hundred pages later when I put the book down and went to bed only to replay and obsess over Eva’s commentary in my head I realised my rules were long brokenI got emotionally involved I always do I wish I could say that Eva's so horrible that I couldn't relate to her but a teeny tiny part of me did especially at the start Crying babies terrify me and I’ve always harboured a lot of reservations about having kids I’m not saying I never want to have kids; that would be a stupid thing to say considering I wasn’t even an adult four years ago But I’m the kind of girl who gets a panic attack when she's asked to babysit her hyperactive nephewsI took sides Right from the start I unconsciously sided with Eva True the way she thought of her son repulsed me at times but I felt Kevin’s actions were repulsive For me Kevin was uintessentially evil and Eva was the poor woman who had the misfortune of bearing him The fact that she didn’t want to have him in the first place just seemed to make her of a victimAs for not dwelling on the disturbing partswell there are NO PARTS The book in entirety is a systematically harrowing tale with no escape The only way to skip the distress would be to stop reading the book itself and while that thought did cross my mind the bibliophile in me couldn’t stay away So I persisted I bore the mental anguish I let Eva’s commentary drill into my brainAnd that's my answer to why I love this ugly ugly book It caused me to recoil in horror so many times but also made me come back to it every single time Every minute I was reading I wanted to stop; yet when I put the book down I wanted to pick it up again Like being addicted to something unpleasant and craving it even when that voice in your head begs you not toThis is an uncharacteristically long review but there’s one last thing I want to add This book left me with a uestion that’s bothered me for days Like I said I’ve always been on Eva’s side but the last 4 pages made me reconsider I mean whatever Kevin did is inexcusable and gruesome and I still feel for Eva but who’s the culprit and who’s the victim? What’s the cause and what’s the effect?Is Eva such a cold mother because Kevin is who he is? Or did Kevin become who he is because Eva is such a cold mother?In the end who do we really need to talk about? Kevin? Or Eva?I’ve ruminated over this uestion for days but I feel it’s best to leave it unanswered Because whatever the truth may be it’s bound to be hideous “It must be possible to earn a devotion by testing an antagonism to its very limit to bring people closer through the very act of pushing them away Because after three days short of eighteen years I can finally announce that I am too exhausted and too confused and too lonely to keep fighting and if only out of desperation or even laziness I love my son”

  8. says:

    Some readers really don't like this book and I'm not entirely sure whyMaybe it's because I'm not a mother and I did find it believable that Eva doesn't love her son completely Maybe it's because I enjoy the big words that were used in the letters and found it believable that she would write this wayMaybe I'm a sucker for good endings and this one ended with a bangI think the writing was superb and despite it being a hard book to read the incident with the maps was particularly brutal it was worth it I think this dealt with the issue of school killings much effectively than Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes The character of Kevin did come alive for me and he was believable I didn't even think that counseling might be an option because Franklin 100% believed that his son was fine and probably would have opposed Eva if she had suggested it Just like she never thinks about them divorcing she also never considers giving her son help Overall I'm glad I was able to finish it and I'm going to read of the author's works

  9. says:

    This book should be sold at the pharmaceutical counter right next to birth control pills I can’t think of a better deterrent for unwanted pregnancy It did a great job of confirming a few truisms maternal instincts are not a given some children are just born bad and the worst mistake a couple can make is to allow a child to divide them It’s the story of Kevin a lethal mix of nature and poor nurturing resulting in the child from hell Yet it’s the character of his mother Eva that I found the most disturbing Totally self absorbed high octane critical; full of discontent no wonder she’s completely unable to form healthy relationships with anyone including the husband she purports to adore Ergo a neurotic son It’s not as sensationalist as I expected this is a terrific book Would I recommend it? Oh yeah but with disclaimers; it could easily offend and it’s horrific so read at your own risk It will make you think and it will stay with you ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ for the 21st century only way scarier because it’s based on reality The writing style is unusual at times painfully raw often elegant and always intelligent Be forewarned she tends too overkill in the adjective department like me Memorable uote You can only punish people who have hopes to frustrate or attachments to sever Impenetrable passions have never made Kevin laugh From early childhood they have enraged him They were determined to find something mechanically wrong with him because broken machines can be fixed It was easier to minister to passive incapacity than to tackle the frightening matter of fierce crackling disinterest

  10. says:

    I've started this review 6 times now and each time I've deleted it because it doesn't uite convey the right thing I think the problem is that I'm not sure just what that thing is But one thing I do know is that I love books that make me feel like this that I don't know what I need to say but I need to say something to talk about this with someone because this book won't keep uiet in my mind feeling I guess it's lucky that this was chosen for our latest group read then because I filibustered there with every jumbled messy half formed thought that my tired because I stayed up until nearly 2am with this book then worked a full 8 hours mind could think of Because this book won't keep uiet in my mind I finished it last night around 130am tears streaming down my face hurting for everyone and furiously heartbroken over something so unnecessary and so seemingly unavoidable as what was depicted Then I slept and I dreamed about this book with hazy distant figures without names or faces but bigger than life aspects It's rare that I dream about books It doesn't matter if I read it up until the minute I drop off; I only dream about a book I'm reading or have read if it pulled me into its world first I dream about the books that touch my soul cue dramatic musicThis book was just wow If I were to nitpick anything it would be that Eva's pen wandered a tiny bit too much into the outside world I wanted to see her world the world of her family or her lack thereof It took a little bit to get there and for a while there were hints but the narrative meandered along in its own time But oh my once it got going it really got going I don't think it was just my last minute mad dash to read this the day before my bookclub meeting that helped me to read 75% of this book in one night after work it was unputdownable Once I glimpsed this family's world I couldn't look away There is so much to talk about in this book And I don't think that I could even attempt to do the topics or themes any justice as I didn't in my bookclub not for lack of trying This is a book that begs to be turned around to the beginning again and immediately re read It's like one of those optical illusions At first the picture is simple but then once you see the hidden picture within it you gain a new appreciation for the whole This book was beautifully written insightful uestioning and heartbreaking It was nothing at all like I expected and even guessing the things that I guessed which turned out to be true it didn't make the impact any less This book was so incredible at making me sympathize and empathize with each person's perspective though we only see these through Eva's brutally honest memory that it was impossible for me to lay blame anywhere even though the potential for assigning blame was huge This was expertly executed pun intended and it is not one that I will forget any time soon