Blitzed Books: “We Need to Talk About Kevin” By Lionel Shriver

Well hello there.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Blitzed Book review piece, which isn’t surprising, really..  Up until recently I’ve had this horrible time with reading for pleasure.  My theory on this subject is that because I read so many fucking meandering boring ass medical studies for school and often will stay up until the wee hours of the 3am morning only to jam myself back in gear at 6am to cram more before school that reading has become a task for me.  When things are tasks, they are not associated with pleasure.  Perhaps for some, but not for me.  I take pleasure in completing tasks, certainly, but not in the lead up.

So while I had once been a voracious reader of fiction, truthfully for most of my adult life, the past two years I’ve read perhaps a handful of books.  Quite shameful, if I’m to be honest.

For whatever reason, I was at the local farmer’s market, hung over and looking for coffee and gluten free bagels and a table was set up selling second hand copies of books to benefit a local scholarship.  I came across a tattered copy of “We Need To Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Schriver.  I’ve never seen the film, but had heard it was disturbing.  I heard the book was even more disturbing.

I elected to take the book home and read it.

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Now, like with most things, I love a gimmick.

Movies that rely on catchy gimmicks or try, even haphazardly, to break new ground are really great in my opinion.  I was very much immediately taken by the gimmick that surrounds this fictional tale.  Eva Khatchadourian, mother to Kevin Khatchadourian, is writing letters to her estranged husband Franklin following Kevin’s brutal school massacre of 9 of his classmates.

Eva is a pompous narrator, self involved and self indulgent and she bemoans her current position as the town’s pariah, which is kind of to be expected when your son took out nine of his classmates.

Truthfully, I hated Eva from the word go.  She’s so fucking boring.  She details her courtship and early days of love with Franklin in the letters and provides the reader with the background with which to understand her predicament.

As the letters go on from detailing simply a relationship, they begin to detail a potential pregnancy and the reluctance Eva feels regarding conceiving a child.

While her husband Franklin longs to be a dad to a little league playing son, Eva doesn’t have these desires and though she does conceive a baby boy, she is reluctant with attention to him.

Seemingly from the moment of his birth she is annoyed at his rejection of her breasts, and this is only the beginning to the relationship between the both of them that can only be described as “frenemies”.  Eva is uncertain if she loves her son.

As a boy he screams constantly, to the point that babysitters quit en masse after only a few weeks with the boy.  As he grows, he takes his intense resentment out on Eva by mimicking her, destroying her sentimental possessions, all while playing good boy to his father, which is an act that Franklin eats up.

In a fit of rage one day, Eva breaks Kevin’s arm.  She is immediately remorseful, and Kevin says nothing, bearing stoicism in his physician’s office while lying about the cause of the injury.

As Kevin ages, his tendency towards psychopathy grows, and whenever there is trouble to be found, Kevin always seems to be near, and always seems to be caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  While Eva demands reproach, Franklin gives leniency and the rift between the spouses is one that is never healed.

Fearing that she can only create horror, Eva conceives a second child, a meek manner daughter named Celia who is as opposite to Kevin as day is to night, and it is within this girl child that Eva finds love.

She loves Celia, and the resentment at Eva’s happiness causes Kevin to take his anger out on Celia’s pet rodent, and eventually Celia.  A household accident takes place where Celia loses her eye and though she can’t be sure of it, Eva seems to believe Kevin was the culprit.

What really sold this book for me was exactly how unreliable of a narrator Eva was.  We see only through her, and we have only her point of view.  Her hurt.  Her betrayal.

These are powerful things and of course you eventually begin to feel for Eva, a woman so at odds with her own child.  Here, this book became a real point for me because I became so caught up with it.  I needed to see where the fuck this all was going.

Eva dances carefully around naming the massacre in which Kevin participated, and when she goes to see him in prison, she is cold with him.  While initially he revels in his status as the psychopath, as the time comes for him to be transferred to Sing Sing prison, his cocky attitude fades.

As the letters to Franklin continue to describe the horrors of living with Kevin, all too quickly we realize that Franklin is dead.  Celia is dead.  Kevin murdered them both before turning his aggression onto his classmates.

He carefully orchestrates a ruse in which these people he hates are brought into the gymnasium at the school after hours, and from the rafters he uses his archery skills to pick them off one by one and watch them die as they lay bleeding.

He is arrested.

What Eva can never wrap her head around is why Kevin did it.

At her final meeting with him before his transfer, she asks him, and he says that he isn’t so sure anymore.

The pair hug, and finally realizing that she loves her son, Eva muses that when he is released, he will return home and live with her.

 

I was in open mouthed slack jawed horror when I finished this novel.

I don’t know if it was the candour with which Eva spoke or how real this horror is for many in the USA, where school massacres have been a semi regular occurence, but the novel was compelling.  It genuinely freaked me out, and that hasn’t happened in such a long time.

I credit Lionel Shriver with reawakening my love for reading for pleasure and this has started me off reading (devouring really) at least a book a week.  There’s some so special about being compelled to stay up late to keep turning the pages on a new book, because you just have to find out what happened.

I’m pretty psyched, and definitely recommend you read this book.

You will definitely take away the debate of are children born evil, or do parents make their children this way?

2 responses to “Blitzed Books: “We Need to Talk About Kevin” By Lionel Shriver

  1. Pingback: We Need To Talk About Kevin: Or, We Need to Talk About Art School | DRUNK IN A GRAVEYARD·

  2. Pingback: Blitzed Books: “The Demonologist” by Andrew Pyper | DRUNK IN A GRAVEYARD·

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