Tuesday, July 24, 2012

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

This book was incredible. Lionel Shriver is a fabulous writer. I also was happy to discover that she's a woman--according to an interview in the back of the copy I'd gotten from the library, her given name is Margaret Anne, and when she was fifteen she started going by a tomboy name that worked for her. All right then. Anyway, this is the story of a woman's son, Kevin, who conducts a Columbine type killing. It's told as a series of letters the mother writes to her estranged husband--the boy's father--right around the boy's eighteenth birthday, the two-year anniversary of his crime. Okay spoiler: The father and the younger sister are not in the story itself, and there are references to how the mother doesn't have the daughter living with her anymore... but it isn't until the second-to-last letter (so page 350 or so of this 400 page novel) that you learn that the son killed his father and little sister that morning before he left for school, after the mother had left for work. So she goes to Kevin's school, finds out he's a mass murderer, goes home still wondering where her husband is and why he hasn't shown up yet to help her through this--then finds the bodies at her house. It's a much more violent book than I usually read. Maybe that isn't even true, actually--I read a fair number of books with violence in them. But yeah, this one takes the cake. It's a hard read. But it's so well done, so beautifully written and so thoughtful about all of this: what it would be like for a mom to be raising a son like Kevin, what it would be like for the dad, what that would do, potentially, to the parents' relationship... But yeah. So glad I'm done with this book. But so glad I read it. Highly recommended.

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