We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Things have been a little bit quiet on the ol’ bloggeroo – because I’ve been reading like crazy. I’m in the first blush of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, and loving it – but I’m also reading one of my own manuscripts in an attempt to start the editing process. It’s hard. I’m enjoying my own book, but wishing the world would stop so I could disappear into The Historian’s world. I’ve also gotten two really great looking books from the ebook library *in monotone* “All Hail the Ebook Library”. World War Z by Max Brooks – which I have been DYING to read, and picked up something that just caught my eye – The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian. Start your blurb with “In a dusty corner of a basement in a rambling Victorian house….” and I’m pretty much yours. But…onward to one from the vault.

we need to talk about kevin

The blurb:

The gripping international bestseller about motherhood gone awry

Eva 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.

It’s hard for me to read a book where I really loathe the main character. The mom here is caustic, superior, racist and homophobic… only she would probably cringe that I referred to her in those terms. She’s racist and homophobic in that rich, elitist way; as if to say “I have a right to these opinions. I am well educated. I have travelled the world.” She might even say her view on other races and gay people has something to do with her being European, or Not American, something she points out ad nauseam, and confused the hell out of me. I don’t remember her revealing a big backstory of herself (we know her mom and dad were Armenian – father killed in the genocide) so I was very confused about this whole not-American thing. Eva’s mom lives in Racine, WI, and Eva went to school there since at least middle school. How do you grow up and go to school in Wisconsin and not consider yourself American? She’s one of those people who call upon the oppression of her own people as an adult, but is oblivious to the oppression of others.

Sorry – that is a bit of a tangent. It’s why I don’t like the character. I wish I could just hate her. But then the book wouldn’t be as good as it is. Why do I feel any guilt at disliking her so much? Because of her suffering. She forces herself to suffer. She doesn’t move away from the town where the tragedy occurs. During the civil suit, where she was sued by her son’s victims families for being a bad mother and making Kevin the way he is, she doesn’t follow her lawyer’s advice and comes off like a cold, heartless bitch on the stand. If she would have minded her P’s and Q’s, the whole case probably would have folded. Instead, she shows everyone what a monster she really is, and loses her business and house, not to mention continuing the “see, she’s a horrible mother” thing she is so wishing to redeem herself from.

And she is horrible. At times I am convinced that her son is evil and was born to be bad. At other times, I wonder if she hears what comes out of her mouth and can’t blame the kid for the way he is. In so many ways, Kevin is just like his mother. He looks like her, he is unfeeling. He is cold. He doesn’t give her what she wants in a little boy. Kevin is also racist and homophobic, but he uses the slurs and slang she avoids. He throws it in her face to get a reaction – even though she has no business saying anything. What can she say? “Can you be a little less obvious of a biggot, like mother is?”

However. Monstrous son. Mysogenist prick of a husband (I won’t go on about him, we’ll be here all day.) Insufferable main character. And this is all so beautifully written, that at times, I am pulling for one or the other of these horrible people. I feel sorry for that miserable bitch of a woman. Then for all of them. I want them all to get what they want/need. But you know that’s not how this is going to go down. Sort of like the duck and the snake – the duck knew what the snake was when he picked it up…. pick up a snake and you will get bitten. And I was bitten by this story. I can see I am not going to be able to stop thinking about this for days.

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