I need to talk about We Need to Talk About Kevin.
I tend to miss all fashions while they’re fashionable, books included, and usually this works fine; my reading friends have grown accustomed to me asking excitedly, “Have you read My Sister’s Keeper?!!” approximately five years after everyone else in the world agreed it was a wonderful book. Right now, however, I’m wishing I wasn’t so far behind. (I’m thankful, though, that I was warned not to read this book earlier in my son’s life; even though by now I know Moses is nothing like Kevin, I still had to remind myself of this fact while reading the second half of the book especially; if Mo was still a baby I may have run away in fear.)
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver is a breathtaking book, quite literally; I felt winded when I finally put it down. It’s a book that will haunt me for a very long time, and one that I feel oddly compelled to talk about. I’m almost certain that if I heard strangers mention this book in a cafe right now, I’d pull up a chair and join in their conversation. I want to start a book club just to discuss it; we’d meet once, then disband. I had few expectations of the book before I read it - one friend had passionately loved it, another had found it too disturbing. I’d actually thought it was about a mother and her autistic son, so was surprised to read (on the cover) that Kevin was instead the perpetrator of a mass shooting at his high school. The book is made up of letters that Eva (Kevin’s mum) writes to her husband (they’re separated), reflecting on her life, on their marriage, on Kevin, and on where it all went wrong. Unlike other reviewers, I was riveted from beginning to end, and, despite her flaws, found Eva’s character both captivating and strangely admirable.
Often when reading, a clunky sentence will trip me over and I’ll have to rewrite it in my head before I can move on. In this book, it was the beauty of some sentences that made me pause; the writing is poetic and polished, and now, looking back and seeing how tightly and cleverly the whole story has been put together, I’m even more in awe of Shriver’s handiwork. I was completely under her spell from the opening pages until the inevitable, but still shocking, end (which I read with my hand over my mouth, my heart racing, and my stomach in knots); never before has a piece of writing sucked me in this much. Along with “intense” and “powerful,” my mind keeps attaching the word “perfect” to this book, it’s a truly brilliant masterpiece that repulsed me as much as it drew me in. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to face reading it again, but I dare say it’ll remain at the top of my ‘Best Novels’ list for a very, very long time.