We Need to Talk About Kevin: A Novel
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A stunning examination of how tragedy affects a town, a marriage, and a family, for readers of Rosellen Brown's Before and After and Jane Hamilton's A Map of the World.
That neither nature nor nurture bears exclusive responsibility for a child's character is self-evident. But such generalizations provide cold comfort when it's your own son who's just opened fire on his fellow students and whose class photograph--with its unseemly grin--is blown up on the national news.
The question of who's to blame for teenage atrocity tortures our narrator, Eva Khatchadourian. Two years ago, her son, Kevin, murdered seven of his fellow high-school students, a cafeteria worker, and a popular algebra teacher. Because he was only fifteen at the time of the killings, he received a lenient sentence and is now in a prison for young offenders in upstate New York.
Telling the story of Kevin's upbringing, Eva addresses herself to her estranged husband through a series of letters. Fearing that her own shortcomings may have shaped what her son has become, she confesses to a deep, long-standing ambivalence about both motherhood in general and Kevin in particular. How much is her fault?
We Need to Talk About Kevin offers no pat explanations for why so many white, well-to-do adolescents--whether in Pearl, Paducah, Springfield, or Littleton--have gone nihilistically off the rails while growing up in suburban comfort. Instead, Lionel Shriver tells a compelling, absorbing, and resonant story while framing these horrifying tableaux of teenage carnage as metaphors for the larger tragedy--the tragedy of a country where everything works, nobody starves, and anything can be bought but a sense of purpose.
thing about Miguel Espinoza. That you went for him because he was Latino.” “Superspic? I leave out communities of color, they’d say I discriminated.” “But the real reason was he was such an academic bright spark, isn’t it? Skipped a grade. All those dizzyingly high scores on state achievement tests and the PSAT.” “Whenever he talk to you, turn out he just trying to use ‘echelon’ in a sentence.” “But you know what ‘echelon’ means. You know all kinds of big words. That’s why you thought it was
and the course took very little time to complete, if only by the clock; I glanced constantly at my watch. This is what it’s like to be Kevin, I thought. The leaden passage of minute by minute: This is what it’s like to be Kevin all the time. At the end Kevin posed with his club like a dapper gentleman, still silent but with a now-what? look, as if to say, okay, I did what you wanted and I hope you’re satisfied. “Well,” I said grimly. “You won.” I insisted on driving home to get his jacket,
off the present long enough and it, like, never happens, know what I’m sayin’?” “They have lower sentences for juveniles for good reason,” you said. “Those kids had no idea what they were doing.” “You don’t think so,” said Kevin caustically. (If he was offended by my ridicule of adolescent angst, our son may have been more affronted by your compassion.) “No eleven-year-old has any real grasp of death,” you said. “He doesn’t have any real concept of other people—that they feel pain, even that
miserably on my breast, he rested an arm around your neck, as if having found his real protector. When I looked at your face, eyes closed, cheek pressed against our infant son, I recognized, if this does not sound too flippant: There’s the potato peeler. It seemed so unfair. You were clearly choked up, filled to the back of your throat with a wonderment that defied expression. It was like watching you lick an ice cream cone that you refused to share. I sat up, and you returned him reluctantly,
papering fine wood an abomination, but we were swimming in teak, and I had an idea that might make me feel, in one room at least, at home: I would plaster the study with maps. I owned boxes and boxes: city maps of Oporto or Barcelona, with all the hostels and pensions I planned to list in IBERI-WAP circled in red; Geographical Survey maps of the Rhone Valley with the lazy squiggle of my train journey highlighted in yellow; whole continents jagged with ambitious airline itineraries in ruled