‘WNTAK’ intense but absorbing

It’s the start of another academic year here at The Rambler and I’m starting off by sharing with you all the best book I read this summer. It’s called “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” by Lionel Shriver, and there’s a film in the works starring Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly. Published in 2003, the book won an Orange Prize for Fiction in 2005.

It’s the dark and intense nonlinear psychological tale of a young man who perpetrates a school shooting. Told through the vehicle of letters from Eva, the mother of the eponymous Kevin, to her estranged husband, the book tells the entire story of Kevin’s life from conception to the crime and beyond. It explores the questions of violence and maternal love — why do mothers love their children, and what happens when they don’t? Are monsters born or created?

Kevin is a problematic character from the start, hostile toward his mother from infancy. From early childhood he displays signs of sociopathy, frequently hurting others on purpose. He does not like games or toys like other children, and his babysitters have a tendency for nervous breakdowns.

Eva never bonds to her son, and often feels as though she is the only one who can see him for what he is. This causes friction between her and Franklin, her husband, who is a loving and self-deluding man with the inability to see the truth in his idyllic family. Things unfold at a frenetic pace as Kevin enters high school, and although the question of “why” is never satisfactorily answered, a few hypotheses are put forth for the reader to ponder.

The novel walks a fine line. It is not interested in laying blame for the outcome of Kevin’s life. Instead it sensitively deconstructs the formative events of Kevin’s development and displays all the victims: those Kevin shot, their families, his family and possibly even Kevin himself.

None of the characters are perfectly likable, but by the end of the book I felt bonded to them anyway. They are people making real and concrete mistakes, which are sometimes painful to contemplate. The story is as absorbing as it is disturbing and takes the reader on a journey inward as well as outward.

This is not recommended for those with low emotional stamina, as it is one of the most affecting and intense books of my lifetime so far. Still, for you who enjoy a side of thinking with your reading and don’t mind a few tears (and there will be tears), I suggest you tab over to Amazon.com right now for the procurement of your own copy. If you have even the slightest interest in what I’ve described, you won’t regret it.

As always, I’m on the lookout for more books to read and review. If you know of a book you would like to see in this spot, please toss me an email at maborie12@transy.edu. The Rambler is a student organization and we want to know what you want to read. I would love to hear from you.


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