Lionel Shriver had a clear mission when writing this book: if you are going to read this, I am going to make it worth it. I picked this novel because I watched the movie in college for a movies class and always wanted to know the depths of Kevin’s brain from the author herself. Lionel uses Eva as a possible unreliable medium to show the real story and Kevin’s brain. However, we get the same essence from the book and movie, and with the need to overexplain every detail in her mind and life, Eva’s rambling and confused mind is what tells apart the film and novel. During the movie, one sees Eva struggling and suffering from the overly violent attachment that Kevin has over her, but, as readers, we manage to get inside Eva and see every act of defiance first handed. Although the narration is rich in details, it becomes a Jenga game since every action and aggression builds up a tower with little retributions and turns the novel into a very slow burner.
The author uses some questionable slang and controversial word choices that might be triggering for some readers. Although, one could argue that the author intends to accomplish revulsion towards the characters of the novel and to connect them somehow. Franklin is an American-toxic-macho man who condones violence and bullying, supports gun possession, and reinforces gender roles. Eva holds a higher moral ground. She does not consider herself Armenian and not American and talks in the third person when referring to American people, a way to detach herself from their vices and traits. Kevin seems to be the mix of arrogance, intelligence, violence, and bullying of their parents with a touch of psychopathy disorder and low empathy. Masterfully done, Shriver uses different literary elements and archetypes to highlight the broken relationship between Eva and Kevin while leaving Franklin in the dark, just like Kevin intended.
Although readers might mark Eva as “spending the whole novel complaining,” we see Eva as the unique narrator to deliver this story. Beginning from survivor syndrome and a long history of aggression, one cannot see this story narrated by someone else. A lack of empathy and understanding of the mind of a reluctant mother, businesswoman, and independent being will make readers take a negative approach toward Eva’s traumas and regrets. Eva gave up her life for a kid. She stepped down from her company to take care of her kid. She tried to be as motherly as possible, with little retribution and growing frustration, to end up with nothing but a “wayward son.” Nonetheless, Eva’s and Kevin’s interactions shifted by the end of the novel making the reader wonder if Eva’s adamant behavior of being a “real mother” paid off; and if they did, was it too late?
“We Need to Talk about Kevin” became a top-book club pick for Inkish Kingdoms. Poignant, shocking, and controversial with a unique approach to the fundamental relationships of mothers, fathers, and sons.
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