“We need to talk about Kevin” by Lionel Shriver was recommended by the librarian at the Anaheim Public library. I read the book a few months ago, but recent events motivated me to post a review.
There was a waiting list for the book at the library, so I found the 2011 movie on Netflix. I was captivated, enthralled and terrified by the movie and wondered if the book could be better. After all, there it was, what was hidden for so long in the movie, right there on page 12. Well the book was so much better than the movie.
Since the “secret” comes out so early in the book, I will discuss it, but if you want to watch the movie, stop reading right now.
Kevin is a murderer, a killer of schoolchildren, a child with a troubled past, and a mother.
The book is the anguishing story of his mother as she struggles throughout his life. As much as she loved him, Kevin was a mystery. She tried therapy, treatment, discipline, all with limited success. Kevin was a spy, a manipulator, a paradox. He refused to talk, refused to participate, and deliberately antagonized people. He enjoyed eavesdropping on the unwitting and manipulating the unsuspecting. Everyone needed to talk about Kevin, but no one had answers.
In the movie, Kevin’s mother struggles with the aftermath of Kevin’s “deed’ which is a “secret,” revealed only toward the end. In the book, the killings are revealed early so readers develop a relationship with Kevin’s mother. We agonize along with her, knowing what happened, and observing her trauma and pain as well as his “lack” of it.
This book and/or the movie should be on everyone’s “must read” list, especially in light of recent events. We all need to talk about Kevin.