Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

We Need to Talk About Kevin

This morning on BBC, as part of the coverage on the horrorific murders in the peaceful Amish country of Pennsylvania, they interviewed Lionel Shriver, author of the award winning book “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”

This is not a recommendation. Shriver’s book, which has won several awards for literary excellence, is not for the faint-hearted. It is a tough, muscular, bleak examination of a similar, fictional incident, written after the Columbine High School massacres.

My best friend and I read this book at the same time – it was a book club selection, paired with another book on a similar theme, “Early Leaving.” We ended up exchanging horrified e-mails every morning, discussing events in the book as if they were a part of our daily life, and speculating on where this was all going.

It is from a mother’s point of view, written to her husband, from whom she is separated after . . . .something . . . We don’t know what that something is. The book unfolds steadily and relentlessly. You want to stop. Truly you do, I am not exaggerating. The book rolls on, so dark, so ominous, you know it is leading up to something truly horrible. You don’t want to look. And you can’t stop reading.

“Why are we reading this???” we asked each other in agony. And we didn’t stop.

“Why did you want me to read this?” your friends will say, as you pass this book along, and then, shell shocked, they will come to you to discuss it. Most often, I didn’t even recommend the book, but friends would overhear other friends talking about it in hushed, horrified voices, and would insist.

The book is the scariest, most real book I have ever read. It hits at the heart of every mother’s secret fears – what if we have done something wrong while raising our child? What if our child turns into a monster? Do we ever really know anyone – our children? Our husbands? Ourselves? We are all so vulnerable in our mothering skills, so quick to blame ourselves for our children’s failings, and this book bravely explores that fear, that vulnerability, without taking the easy way out and giving easy answers.

If you read this book you will find yourselves talking about it months – even years – after you read it. It is a terrifying book.

And after you read it you will understand why my heart is breaking for everyone involved in this unthinkable killing in Pennsylvania. Were I some superstitious person, it would be so easy – it is clearly the devil’s work. I can’t imagine what this man could have been thinking, but he chose his victims – young, innocent girls – with purpose. My heart aches for his wife and children, who will bear this shame for the rest of their lives, and for his parents, who will wonder where they went wrong. My heart breaks especially for the peaceable Amish, revered throughout America for their simplicity and commitment in living their faith, who must try to find a way to forgive the man who took their innocent daughters’ lives.

October 3, 2006 - Posted by | Books, Family Issues, Fiction, Relationships, Social Issues, Uncategorized


  1. […] book, My Sister’s Keeper, is not light reading. It is a book a lot like We Need To Talk About Kevin one of the most terrifying and unforgettable books I have ever read. It is a book about motherhood, […]

    Pingback by Picoult and My Sister’s Keeper « Here There and Everywhere | October 7, 2007 | Reply

  2. I wish I’d had a friend read this book with me! Such horror should not be experienced alone. It’s a great book, but so dark. Your previous commenter mentioned My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. That is an awesome book, but Picoult also has one that came out this year about a school shooting, Nineteen Minutes. It’s pretty different from Shriver’s book, but very good.

    Comment by Lori | October 24, 2007 | Reply

  3. Hi Lori, I totally agree – we read it over two years ago now, but we still talk about it. It may not be an easy book to read, but it’s a good book when you are still talking about it two years later! I’ll have to get my hands on Nineteen Minutes. Thanks for the good recommendation.

    Comment by intlxpatr | October 25, 2007 | Reply

  4. […] the movie. I honestly don’t know if I can go see it, it’s that scary for me. I reviewed We Need to Talk About Kevin, the book, here. LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

    Pingback by We Need to Talk About Kevin: The Movie « Here There and Everywhere | November 3, 2011 | Reply

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