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We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel…
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We Need to Talk About Kevin (original 2003; edition 2005)

by Lionel Shriver

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,594319768 (4.1)1 / 594
Member:dylanwolf
Title:We Need to Talk About Kevin
Authors:Lionel Shriver
Info:Serpent's Tail (2005), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 436 pages
Collections:NAR - SMI
Rating:
Tags:USA, read

Work details

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (2003)

  1. 91
    Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (bnbookgirl, BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Both of these novels are about school shootings and the alienated teenage boys responsible for them. 'We need to talk about Kevin' depicts the complex relationships within the shooter's family, whereas 'Nineteen minutes' focuses on the larger community affected by the event.… (more)
  2. 81
    Columbine by Dave Cullen (GCPLreader)
  3. 60
    The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing (christiguc, humppabeibi)
    christiguc: Both are books that explore the nature vs. nurture question in disturbing situations.
  4. 40
    Before and After by Rosellen Brown (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Both of these novels tell haunting, harrowing stories about the family relationships of teenage boys who commit unthinkable crimes: in 'We need to talk about Kevin' a school shooting, and in 'Before and after' a teenager's murder of his girlfriend.… (more)
  5. 52
    Defending Jacob by William Landay (arielfl, Booksloth)
    arielfl: Both books are about bad seed boys who murder and who have mothers who have an inkling about their true nature and with fathers who deny, deny, deny.
  6. 30
    Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland (verenka)
    verenka: Both books deal with the aftermath of school shootings but from different perspectives.
  7. 30
    The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb (freddlerabbit)
  8. 10
    The Point of Rescue / The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah (JeaniusOak)
    JeaniusOak: Both novels explore difficult themes surrounding Motherhood.
  9. 00
    The Dinner by Herman Koch (INTPLibrarian)
    INTPLibrarian: Disturbed child and parents dealing with it. Both with twists / unexpected parts.
  10. 00
    Little Star by John Ajvide Lindqvist (julienne_preacher)
  11. 22
    The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (RidgewayGirl)
  12. 00
    Boy A by Jonathan Trigell (FemmeNoiresque)
  13. 12
    The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan (Monika_L)
  14. 03
    Empire Falls by Richard Russo (mcenroeucsb)
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English (301)  French (3)  German (3)  Italian (2)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (2)  Finnish (1)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (316)
Showing 1-5 of 301 (next | show all)
Visceral. That was the word I landed on (thanks to Joan's help) that best sums up the feeling I got from reading this book. That might sound off-putting, when the crux of the book involves the child of the narrator perpetrating a school shooting. There's little gore, in terms of physical violence. It's emotional violence, almost, though its awfulness (in the sense of "awe-inspiring terror") is in the very rawness with which the narrator, Eva, relates the internal landscape of her entire adult life, not any specific actions.

The depths to which Eva plumbs her life, her relationship with her husband, her worries about her children, her mounting fear of her sociopathic son and everything in between are scary because of their groundedness. She's not an entirely reliable narrator, due to her relating relationships between multiple people who don't get the chance to have their say, but you never get the impression she's unfair, either.

This is definitely the kind of book you don't want to see yourself in, but in many of the characters I saw not facets of my character (the easy, "Oh he likes Doctor Who and *I* like Doctor Who!") but fundamental precepts through which I navigate the world.

When Eva accuses her husband, Robert, of viewing things in terms of the generic ("I'm so proud of my son") versus the specific ("Kevin did X that I'm proud of"), it was a gut-punch because it reminded me of how I made my way through college, singling out the broad assumptive touchstones ("We're fraternity brothers who are drinking at a party!") rather than the actual experience ("I'm drinking way too much because I'm interminably bored on a Friday night because I spend too much time not actually doing anything!"). The parallels I could draw between parts of many of the characters really made the book feel like it was taking cheap shots, and this is not a book that really needs to punch above its weight. It's already a prize fighter.

In fact, the only reason I almost didn't give it 5 stars is because I can't read it again. It was just too much to deal with, though I implore those of you who are able to stomach it to tough it out. In the end, though, I can't really fault a book for connecting too much, or for working too well. I'll have to leave it in the words of a Penn State sophomore, talking about the freshman dorms: It's the best worst thing I never want to do again. ( )
  thoughtbox | May 27, 2016 |
I agree its dark, but it stays on your mind.
The characters are strong,with a very impressing nature. A perfect family Father,Mother,Son and Daughter.
Father,who thinks love and friendship can turn anything good.
Mother, who understands the white as white and black as black.
Son, with an unnatural intelligence to fake things to those who believed and not to the one who wont believe.
Daughter, a simple and afraid kind of girl.
At the beginning the story gives an idea like the mother is selfish and rude where as dad is understanding and soft. Son was a mess from beginning.
There are some parts that unnecessarily describes some daily stuff,but worth reading.
But i can only conclude that, Eva was a mother and only mother can understand her children like anything. ( )
  PallaviSharma | May 9, 2016 |
I was so blown away by this novel, the minute I finished reading it, I turned to page one to read it again. Eva Khatchadourian is without a doubt the deepest, most three-dimensional character I have ever read. There were many times when I did not agree with what she did, or even particularly like her, but Eva seemed too real to be fictional. The novel is a series of letters written by Eva to her husband Franklin, and they are so brutally honest they may as well be written in blood. I felt like an eavesdropper at Eva's therapy sessions as she recounted the chronology of her marriage to Franklin, then their decision to have a child when Eva is 37 (before time runs out). Eva agonizes over every doubt, every misgiving, every bit of selfishness and negative feelings about being a mother from conception until the present day. With good reason. In the present day, Kevin is in prison for murder, another school shooter. Lionel Shriver creates a compelling, thought-provoking novel which shows that we need not sympathize only with the victims of random violence. This would be a great book for a book club (but the lenghty introspection is definitely not for everyone). I talked about it for hours to whoever would listen, welcoming debates about nature versus nurture, capital punishment, etc. ( )
  memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |
This is billed as "the question all women must face whether to have or not have kids?" In my opinion it was less about the having of children than about the asumptions, responsibilities and expectations of our society on families and especially mothers.
The issues it raised for me were about the societal assumption that all women want children, and that all women are "natural" mothers. Would Kevin have turned out differently if his mother had told her husband "I can't cope. You need to stay home with him". She would have been labeled as a "bad" mother especially in the superwoman (I can do averything) attitude of the empowered eighties woman.
We learn as the book goes on that during Kevin's playgroup and Kindergarten years he would start out in a group and other parents would slowly withdraw their children until he was left out of the group altogether. Would he have turned out different if any of these parents, instead of fading away, acctually confronted Kevin's mother with the reasons for this? What responsibility do all of those other parents (who clearly saw some issue with Kevin) have for not speaking up and dealing with these concerns?
Or in those early years was the issue actually not Kevin but his mum? Toward the end of the book she displays personality traits that Kevin has as well.
The other issue it raised was how much responsibility should the media take? where is the line between reporting a story and sensationalising it? Kevin loves his fame. In juvie it is his draw card.

The main reason for the parts of the book I didn't like was simply a matter of how Lionel Shriver writes. I frequently got the feeling the she only used some turns of phrase to get a reaction from the reader. It didn't strike me a shocking or disturbing (which I feel was the intent) but instead it felt forced and kind of tired.
I would love to hear this story from another character's POV. ( )
  SashaM | Apr 20, 2016 |
Quite impressing. It's a book that will be hard to forget. ( )
  ShayLRoss | Mar 16, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 301 (next | show all)
A powerful, gripping and original meditation on evil
 
At a time when fiction by women has once again been criticised for its dull domesticity, here is a fierce challenge of a novel by a woman that forces the reader to confront assumptions about love and parenting, about how and why we apportion blame, about crime and punishment, forgiveness and redemption and, perhaps most significantly, about how we can manage when the answer to the question why? is either too complex for human comprehension, or simply non-existent.
 
The epistolary method Shriver uses, letters to Eva's absent husband, strains belief, yet ultimately that's not what trips us up. It's Eva's relentless negativity that becomes boring and repetitive in the first half of the book, the endless recounting of her loss of svelteness, her loss of freedom.
added by stephmo | editSalon.com, Barbara O'Dair (Aug 12, 2004)
 
Maybe there are books to be written about teenage killers and about motherhood, but this discordant and misguided novel isn't one of them.
added by stephmo | editThe Guardian, Sarah A. Smith (Nov 15, 2003)
 
A little less, however, might have done a lot more for this book. A guilt-stricken Eva Khatchadourian digs into her own history, her son's and the nation's in her search for the responsible party, and her fierceness and honesty sustain the narrative; this is an impressive novel, once you get to the end.

 

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Lionel Shriverprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Trouw, MiekeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
A child needs your love most when he deserves it least.
--Erma Bombeck
Dedication
For Terri
One worst-case scenario we've both escaped.
First words
I'm unsure why one trifling incident this afternoon has moved me to write to you.
Every now again, one of those books comes along that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end when you read it. (Introduction)
I can roughly divide my novels into two stacks. (Afterword)
Quotations
You were ambitious - for your life, what it was like when you woke up in the morning, and not for some attainment.  Like most people who did not answer a particular calling from an early age, you placed work beside yourself; any occupation would fill up your day but not your heart.  I liked that about you.  I liked it enormously.
Only a country that feels invulnerable can afford political turmoil as entertainment.
You never wanted to have me, did you?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Eva never really wanted to be a mother; certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher who tried to befriend him. 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 absent husband, Franklyn. 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.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 006112429X, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:48 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Eva Khatchadourian writes to her estranged husband Frank, trying to solve what went wrong in raising their son Kevin after he kills seven classmates and a teacher in his high school in upstate New York.

(summary from another edition)

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Editions: 1921145080, 192175849X

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