Summary and book reviews of We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

We Need to Talk About Kevin

A Novel

by Lionel Shriver

We Need to Talk About Kevin
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2003, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2006, 432 pages

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Book Summary

Eva never really wanted to be a mother—and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered fellow high-school friends and staff in a horrific rampage. Two years later, it is time for Eva to come to terms with her life and the decisions she made.

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, 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.

Chapter One

November 8, 2000

Dear Franklin,

I'm unsure why one trifling incident this afternoon has moved me to write to you. But since we've been separated, I may most miss coming home to deliver the narrative curiosities of my day, the way a cat might lay mice at your feet: the small, humble offerings that couples proffer after foraging in separate backyards. Were you still installed in my kitchen, slathering crunchy peanut butter on Branola though it was almost time for dinner, I'd no sooner have put down the bags, one leaking a clear viscous drool, than this little story would come tumbling out, even before I chided that we're having pasta tonight so would you please not eat that whole sandwich.

In the early days, of course, my tales were exotic imports, from Lisbon, from Katmandu. But no one wants to hear stories from abroad, really, and I could detect from your telltale politeness that you privately preferred anecdotal trinkets from closer to home: an eccentric ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Introduction

In a series of compelling and introspective letters to her estranged husband, Franklin, Eva Khatchadourian dissects her married life and her mothering of her son Kevin and daughter Celia in the aftermath of Kevin's Columbine-like school slaying of seven classmates, a cafeteria worker, and a teacher.

Worried that her son's murderousness might have resulted from her deficits as a mother, Eva probes the most intimate and shocking aspects of her inner life, her marriage and her resentment of motherhood. This literary page-turner tackles the sensitive proposition that mothers can be unmoved by -- and even dislike -- their own children. Eva struggles with her lack of ready emotion when Kevin is first placed in her arms and with ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

It's a harrowing, psychologically astute, sometimes even darkly humorous novel, with a clear-eyed, hard-won ending and a tough-minded sense of the difficult, often painful human enterprise.

Library Journal

Through Eva's voice, Shriver offers a complex look at the factors that go into a parent-child relationship and at what point, if any, a parent can decide if a child is a hopeless case.

Kirkus Reviews

Eva's acid social commentary and slightly arch voice only add to the general unpleasantness-which isn't to say Shriver lacks skill, since unpleasantness appears to be her aim. Not for the faint-hearted or those contemplating parenthood.

Booklist - Deborah Donovan

Starred Review. Shriver yanks the reader back and forth between blame and empathy, retribution and forgiveness. Never letting up on the tension, Shriver ensures that, like Eva, the reader grapples with unhealed wounds.

Reader Reviews

Kelli Robinson

Incredibly Powerful
This was an incredibly powerful book for me on so many levels. I repeatedly felt a sense of guilt as I read through Eva's letters to her husband sensing that these were too personal to share, amazed at her level of complete honesty. At many times, ...   Read More

Cloggie Downunder

skilfully crafted
We Need to Talk About Kevin is the 8th novel by Lionel Shriver. The format is a series of letters written by Eva Khatchadourian to her absent husband, Franklin, which are a sort of analytical reminiscence about their lives before the arrival of their...   Read More

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