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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 2006)

by Lionel Shriver

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,008None906 (4.1)1 / 522
Member:DetailMuse
Title:We Need to Talk About Kevin
Authors:Lionel Shriver
Info:Harper Perennial (2006), Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Read in 2011, Read but unowned
Rating:*****
Tags:Fiction, Epistolary, Motherhood, Mothers and Sons, Family, Parenting, Murder, School Shooting, LT Inspired, @S, a2010, BOYS11, 2011

Work details

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

21st century (23) America (26) American (55) American literature (25) book club (29) contemporary (30) contemporary fiction (43) crime (30) ebook (19) epistolary (28) family (83) fiction (606) letters (21) mass murder (25) motherhood (87) murder (89) New York (24) novel (74) orange (24) Orange Prize (75) own (27) parenting (45) psychology (23) read (75) school shooting (58) school shootings (45) to-read (128) unread (33) USA (34) violence (34)
  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. 40
    The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing (christiguc, humppabeibi)
    christiguc: Both are books that explore the nature vs. nurture question in disturbing situations.
  4. 30
    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. 30
    Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland (verenka)
    verenka: Both books deal with the aftermath of school shootings but from different perspectives.
  6. 30
    The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb (freddlerabbit)
  7. 42
    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.
  8. 10
    The Point of Rescue / The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah (JeaniusOak)
    JeaniusOak: Both novels explore difficult themes surrounding Motherhood.
  9. 00
    Little Star by John Ajvide Lindqvist (julienne_preacher)
  10. 22
    The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (RidgewayGirl)
  11. 00
    Boy A by Jonathan Trigell (FemmeNoiresque)
  12. 12
    The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan (Monika_L)
  13. 03
    Empire Falls by Richard Russo (mcenroeucsb)
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English (266)  French (3)  German (3)  Italian (2)  Spanish (1)  Finnish (1)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (279)
Showing 1-5 of 266 (next | show all)
While a work of fiction, We Need to Talk about Kevin feels very realistic. It is written as a series of letters from Kevin’s mother to her husband, who seems to be gone. You quickly learn that Kevin has killed nine of his classmates in a mass act of school violence. His mother starts her letters talking about her uncertainty when they were deciding whether or not to have a child. After they had Kevin, she didn’t really feel connected to him. As he was growing up, there were personality and behavior that disturbed her, but that her husband refused to see. The letters are very angst ridden about her actions as a mother, as well as very upsetting because of the things Kevin does. ( )
  ktoonen | Apr 8, 2014 |
i tried, but it was TORTURE ( )
  lloyd1175 | Mar 22, 2014 |
Eva Khatchadourian's life has completely changed since the incident involving her son Kevin at his school. She used to be a successful travel writer and now she took any job that would have her (in this case a clerk in a travel agency). She used to have a family in a large luxurious house, but now lives alone in a small squalid house. The people of her town are largely hostile towards her, splashing her house with red paint and shunning her. Kevin nears eighteen and she regularly visits him in jail despite not having much to talk about. Eva reflects upon her strained relationship with Kevin and recounts her dreary present through detailed letters to her estranged husband Franklin.

Last year, I watched the film We Need to Talk About Kevin and I had to read the book it was based on because the story is so compelling. The novel is set up in a series of letters from Eva to her husband Franklin. The narrative follows Eva's life from her marriage to Franklin to the present while interspersing events in the present among those of the past. Eva goes on a lot of tangents and is fairly long winded, but she details her feelings and experiences beautifully. I enjoyed getting into her head and seeing her thought processes first hand. Her decision to have children was primarily based on wanting to change their routine and she felt it was the next logical step in life. Motherhood doesn't suit her well when Kevin proves to be a horribly loud, fussy baby, an unpleasant child, and a murderous teen. She resented that her body and her life were no longer her own before he was born and didn't feel that special bond to her newborn that so many people talk about. Society views women as maternal and doesn't take into account women not wanting or liking motherhood. I'm sure Eva is not the first mother nor the last to feel this way, but these women are demonized or simply not acknowledged. Failing to meet Franklin's view of an ideal mother ends up exacerbating all of Eva's problems.

A lack of communication permeates Eva's life. After a while of trying to voice opinions about Kevin, Eva simply stays silent. This is largely due to her husband, Franklin, who has this idealized version of a family that he wants his family to fit in. He loves the good old days and longs for a Leave it to Beaver type nuclear family with a subservient and perfect wife and an enthusiastic, perfect son. Obviously, his family doesn't match that, so his solution is to explain away every problem with Kevin, usually referencing that boys will be boys or that Eva is making things up, and undermine Eva at every turn. When more serious things start to happen, tensions increase as Eva sees through Kevin's act and Franklin continues to wallow in denial. When the situation gets so extreme that she can no longer stay silent, Franklin completely rejects her and wants a divorce. Eva doesn't talk to Kevin because of his incredibly abrasive and manipulative personality and the way he mocks everything she cares about. After that Thursday, her only form of real communication is her letters to Franklin, which is futile since he's dead. These letters are the honest and uncensored outpouring of her feelings and thoughts that no one in her life will end up reading.

Kevin is a frustrating character because he can manipulate almost everyone in his life incredibly well. Although he seems to hate Eva, he has a special bond with her. He only shows his true self to her and puts up a fake front for everyone else. Eva never blames how he is on nature or nurture, but it's undeniable that even from a young age, something was wrong. The one time he shows his true colors was on the day he killed his schoolmates in the act itself and how he exploded at his dad, letting him know just how fake and empty their relationship is. By the end of the novel, Kevin sheds his shell of fakery and shows his fear at moving to an adult jail, his positive feelings about her visits, and his confusion over his murderous actions. Eva visits him every week whether or not he acts like he wants it and they are the only constants in each other's lives. At the end of the novel, they make a real connection and no longer lie to each other. For better or worse, they only have each other.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is an intense and emotional novel. Although many would condemn her as a bad mother or a monster, Eva is merely human. She makes mistakes, but always tried to do what she thought was right. Lionel Shriver portrays Eva in a sympathetic light as someone doing the best they can in an adverse situation. She may not have done everything perfectly, but she isn't responsible for Kevin's actions. The novel provides much more insight to her character than the film, but both works are highly recommended. ( )
1 vote titania86 | Feb 13, 2014 |
My friend lent this book to me a while back and it took me a very, very long time to get through the first 50 pages. It was almost a month in before my friend asked how it was going and I admitted I wasn't very excited about it. She asked where I was, and I said almost 50 pages in. "Keep reading, it get's better after 50," she said.

And I'm glad I did, almost right at the 50 page mark, I could not put the book down. The book is written in a letter format, with the narrator writing to her husband about their child's crime. At first, the main character/narrator/mother is extremely unlikable - spoiled and privileged, lamenting the events of her life. But the more you read, the more self awareness the narrator exhibits and she slowly strips down, revealing other characters on the way. By the end I was balling like a baby.

Excellent book, I would highly recommend it. ( )
  ahgonzales | Feb 5, 2014 |
Well written. Very disturbing book. At times I wanted to quit reading it but felt compelled to finish.
( )
  Delorescobb | Jan 25, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 266 (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.

 

» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
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.
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.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Poikani Kevin koostuu Evan kirjeistä miehelleen Franklinille. Eva Khatchadourianilla oli loistelias ura ja onnellinen avioliitto, ennen kuin hän sai lapsen. Nyt heidän poikansa Kevin on vankilassa järkyttävän rikoksen takia, ja Eva käy kirjeissään läpi tragediaa edeltänyttä aikaa. Miksi Kevin päätyi hirmutekoon? Oliko kaikki vanhempien syytä? Mitä jos Eva olisi rakastanut Keviniä enemmän? Jos Frank ei olisi aina yrittänyt nähdä asioiden valoista puolta? Jos Eva olisi halunnut lasta enemmän? Vai olisiko näistä mikään muuttanut mitään? Shriver käsittelee tarkkanäköisesti mustimpiakin tunteita ja ajassa liikkuvia ilmiöitä. Romaani käsittelee suuria kysymyksiä "arkisesti", kiinnittyy omaan aikaamme ja erittelee sen vastenmielisimpiä piirteitä tinkimättömästi. Se kysyy oikeita kysymyksiä, mutta ei anna valmiita vastauksia. Poikani Kevin on romaani syyllisyydestä, äidinrakkaudesta ja sen puuttumisesta, itsekkyydestä ja selittämättömästä pahuudesta, jota on mahdoton selittää tyhjäksi millään psykologian teorioilla. Järkyttävä, yllätyksellinen ja ajatuksia herättävä romaani voitti vuoden 2005 Orange-palkinnon.
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:17 -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)

» see all 9 descriptions

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