WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN by Lionel Shriver

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN

KIRKUS REVIEW

The bad seed/nurture vs. nature theme updated as a teenaged sniper’s mother tries to understand the why behind her son’s criminality, in a series of letters to her not so mysteriously absent husband.

Two years earlier, when he was not quite 16, Kevin Khatchadourian went on a murderous rampage and now lives in a juvenile facility, where his mother Eva visits him regularly if joylessly. Although she has won a civil suit brought by a grieving mother who held her parenting responsible for Kevin’s acts, Eva does not doubt her accountability any more than she doubts Kevin’s guilt. Is she a bad mother? Is he a devil child? The implied answer to both is yes. Eva and her husband Franklin were happily married until she became pregnant in her late 30s. The successful publisher of bohemian travel guides who loves her work, Eva is more ambivalent than Franklin about the prospect of parenthood. When Kevin is born, her lack of instantaneous maternal love is exacerbated by Kevin’s rejection of her breast. The baby shows—or she sees—plenty of early signs that he is “different.” He refuses to talk until he’s three or toilet train until he’s six—a matter of choice, not ability. Babysitters quit; other children fear him. Franklin, a bland, all-American type about whom Eva talks lovingly but condescendingly, notices nothing wrong. He defends Kevin against all accusations. When Eva’s daughter Celia is born, the contrast between the children is startling. Celia is sweet-natured, passive, and a bit dim, and Eva is amazed how naturally she and the girl bond. Meanwhile, Kevin grows into a creepily vicious adolescent whose only hobby is archery. The impending disaster is no surprise despite Shriver’s coyly dropped hints. 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.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2003
ISBN: 1-58243-267-8
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Counterpoint
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2003




10 CHARACTERS WE LOVE TO HATE:

Nonfiction THE PRICE OF JUSTICE by Laurence Leamer
by Laurence Leamer
Fiction WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN by Lionel Shriver
by Lionel Shriver
Nonfiction MORTAL SINS by Michael D’Antonio
by Michael D’Antonio
Nonfiction AMONG MURDERERS by Sabine Heinlein
by Sabine Heinlein

MORE BY LIONEL SHRIVER

FictionBIG BROTHER by Lionel Shriver
by Lionel Shriver
FictionSO MUCH FOR THAT by Lionel Shriver
by Lionel Shriver
FictionTHE POST-BIRTHDAY WORLD by Lionel Shriver
by Lionel Shriver

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

FictionTHE EXECUTION OF NOA P. SINGLETON by Elizabeth L. Silver
by Elizabeth L. Silver
FictionWHAT THEY DO IN THE DARK by Amanda  Coe
by Amanda Coe
FictionTHE DINNER by Herman Koch
by Herman Koch