14 September, 2010

We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver

This was my second reading of this immensely disturbing book.

Kevin is written from the point of view of Eva, Kevin's mother. They are letters to Kevin's father, Franklin in the aftermath of Kevin murdering seven of his high school class mates, a teacher and a cafeteria worker. As I said, the book is disturbing.

What I found most interesting this time through though, is how different I feel about the characters. Before I started blogging my books, I kept a reading journal. In it I review Kevin after my first reading and while I am angry with Franklin (and still was with this second reading), I was incredibly sympathetic towards Eva. With the second reading, I wasn't so on her side. Yes, I was sympathetic for what she is going through - may none of us ever know what it is to parent a child who performs such a horrific act - but I was a lot less sympathetic for her while Kevin was growing up. This time, rather than seeing Kevin as a purely evil child who had hoodwinked his father and many others, I seriously questioned Eva's role in shaping her child. I found both Eva and Franklin more interested in what was in it for them - why was she not getting from Kevin what she felt was her right as a mother. For Franklin, Kevin was just an instrument to fulfill a boyhood fantasy of what the perfect father was. Eva focused on Kevin's faults only, Franklin refused to see them. I kept asking myself at what point do you acknowledge your child has problems and actually seek help?? Eva knows all the problems, she recites them frequently, but at no point does she seem to want to do anything to deal with them. Kevin so obviously needed professional help and I truly feel his parents let him and his victims down by not seeking it.

Kevin is not an enjoyable book, but it is thought provoking. I'm looking forward to the discussion surrounding it when my book group next meets.