We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver
We Need to talk about Kevin is one of those books that you shouldn’t really admit to liking. You can picture the conversation:
Friend: What book are you reading?
Me: We Need to Talk about Kevin
Friend: What’s it about?
Me: It’s written from the point of view of a mother whose son goes and kills his class mates. It’s really good.
A psychological rollercoaster told through letters to her husband, Franklin, Eva recounts her life with her husband, the arrival of her killer son Kevin and the trauma he puts them through.
An avid traveller, Eva doesn’t want to settle but wants something different in her life. She decides to have a child, not because she yearns for one but because she wants a change. She struggles to deal with her new pregnant body and the subsequent arrival of Kevin. Maternal, she is not. As he grows she notices things which are a cause for concern, he cries constantly, doesn’t crave affection and doesn’t speak. Multiple nannies quit on her due to Kevin’s unusual nature.
As he grows older he does everything he can to challenge his mother. In his father’s eyes he can do no wrong, whether this is because he doesn’t want to see it or actually cannot see it is left up to the reader to decide. I’m with the latter option.
Eva grows to dislike her son as much he seemingly dislikes her, none more so than when she loses her temper and throws him across the room causing him to break his arm. Amazingly Kevin tells doctors he fell but Eva knows he is just waiting to pay her back for her loss of control.
Eva decides she wants another child, I believe so she can show she isn’t the terrible mother she thinks she is and ‘make up’ for the mess that is Kevin. From the off Kevin’s erratic behaviour increases and reaches fever pitch when he bathes his sister in bleach and causes her to lose an eye. An accident in Franklin’s mind, malice in Eva’s.
The novel builds up to Thursday’s events and Thursday is just as horrific as we thought it would be. Kevin took an avid interest in archery and his parents but him a crossbow as a Christmas present. Kevin calculatingly decides to show off his skill in his high-school gym where a group of gifted and talented student have gathered to receive awards. He kills seven of his class mates by firing arrows off the gym’s balcony. But that’s not even the most shocking aspect of his rampage.
Throughout the novel I believed Celia was taken off Eva and Franklin left her. Boy was I wrong. Eva franticly tries to contact Franklin to talk about what Kevin has done but cannot get hold of him. She comes home and turns on the outside lights to see her daughter pinned up with multiple arrows through her limp body and her dead husband on the floor who has suffered the same fate as his daughter. We are led to believe he tried to save Celia but Kevin got to him before he could.
We are left with the debate of – did Kevin turn out how he did because of his mother’s lack of want and love towards him or was he just inherently evil? I leaned to the latter. Eva goes to visit her son in prison and does admit she forgives him. But Kevin’s ultimate revenge is the real killer – he killed everyone his mother loved so he could watch her suffer.
It’s a chillingly excellent read.