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We Need to Talk About Kevin Hardcover – Mar 25 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; export ed edition (March 25 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582432678
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582432670
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 739 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #523,385 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

A number of fictional attempts have been made to portray what might lead a teenager to kill a number of schoolmates or teachers, Columbine style, but Shriver's is the most triumphantly accomplished by far. A gifted journalist as well as the author of seven novels, she brings to her story a keen understanding of the intricacies of marital and parental relationships as well as a narrative pace that is both compelling and thoughtful. Eva Khatchadourian is a smart, skeptical New Yorker whose impulsive marriage to Franklin, a much more conventional person, bears fruit, to her surprise and confessed disquiet, in baby Kevin. From the start Eva is ambivalent about him, never sure if she really wanted a child, and he is balefully hostile toward her; only good-old-boy Franklin, hoping for the best, manages to overlook his son's faults as he grows older, a largely silent, cynical, often malevolent child. The later birth of a sister who is his opposite in every way, deeply affectionate and fragile, does nothing to help, and Eva always suspects his role in an accident that befalls little Celia. The narrative, which leads with quickening and horrifying inevitability to the moment when Kevin massacres seven of his schoolmates and a teacher at his upstate New York high school, is told as a series of letters from Eva to an apparently estranged Franklin, after Kevin has been put in a prison for juvenile offenders. This seems a gimmicky way to tell the story, but is in fact surprisingly effective in its picture of an affectionate couple who are poles apart, and enables Shriver to pull off a huge and crushing shock far into her tale. It's a harrowing, psychologically astute, sometimes even darkly humorous novel, with a clear-eyed, hard-won ending and a tough-minded sense of the difficult, often painful human enterprise.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In a series of brutally introspective missives to her husband, Franklin, from whom she is separated, Eva tries to come to grips with the fact that their 17-year-old son, Kevin, has killed seven students and two adults with his crossbow. Guiltily she recalls how, as a successful writer, she was terrified of having a child. Was it for revenge, then, that from the moment of his birth Kevin was the archetypal difficult child, screaming for hours, refusing to nurse, driving away countless nannies, and intuitively learning to "divide and conquer" his parents? When their daughter, loving and patient Celia, is born, Eva feels vindicated; but as the gap between her view of Kevin as a "Machiavellian miscreant" and Franklin's efforts to explain away their son's aberrant behavior grows wider, they find themselves facing divorce. In crisply crafted sentences that cut to the bone of her feelings about motherhood, career, family, and what it is about American culture that produces child killers, Shriver yanks the reader back and forth between blame and empathy, retribution and forgiveness. Never letting up on the tension, Shriver ensures that, like Eva, the reader grapples with unhealed wounds. Deborah Donovan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kaitlyn Kochany on June 12 2005
Format: Paperback
Kevin Katchadourian is a parent's worst nightmare: a sullen child who abuses, manipulates, and controls everyone around him. Eva, his mother, seems to know something is terribly wrong with her son from the moment she gives birth, as he grasps for his father and turns a baleful eye towards his mother. As he gets older, Eva's maternal instincts about her dark child places him at the center of incident after incident: playgoups that are dismantled; misterious bike accidents; sexual precocity. As Kevin grows up and Eva bears a beautiful young daughter, the family dynamic becomes even more explosive as she and her husband Franklin take sides against Kevin and his malevolence.
The inorexible march towards the conclusion - Kevin's violent and methodical attack on his classmates - made my stomach tie itself up in knots. Eva is helpless as he controls the Katchadourians and eventually destroys everyone around him.
Taking the form of letters written to her husband, Franklin, Eva reflects on her marriage, her children, the nature of violence and hypocrisy in America, and what it feels like to be the mother of a disturbed and dangerous child. This is not a light book, but it is a necessary one. Her inability to mother Kevin is perhaps an insightful look at those women who bore the real-life School Killers, and Lionel Shriver should be congratulated on her brave and difficult work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne on Nov. 5 2010
Format: Paperback
I found this to be a terrifying novel. I read this book a few years ago, and there are scenes described in it that I will never forget. Many people will say this book inspires debate on nature vs nuture in developing someone's character. While in general I believe this to be true, there was no question for me that the evil that is Kevin was due to 'nature' alone. No one, his mother least of all, made him this. The last bit, as the nature of Eva's communications with her husband are revealed was, as my title says, horrifying. Great read, it shook me to my core.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Samantha TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 25 2007
Format: Paperback
While all of Shriver's books grab me by the second page, despite some slight pretentions, this book is outstanding in its honesty and depth of character development. These fictional people are etched indelibly in my mind. Her unique style of making you hate her characters but wanting the best outcome for them is genius. This is not a fun read, by any measures, but one that won't disappoint. It is a vastly disturbing, devouring but strangely satisfying masterpiece fit for those greedy for darkly thematic literature.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By gaildianne on Sept. 24 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is well worth reading, but it does not take you to a happy place. The subject is disturbing and the struggle between mother and son very real. The outcome surprised me and left a lasting image. This is not a book you will easily forget.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Stover TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 24 2012
Format: Paperback
The novel's back-cover blurb makes no secret of the horror shown only at its climax -- a 1999 New York school shooting perpetrated by 15-year-old Kevin, the son of successful tourbook writer Eva Khatchadourian and advertising location scout Franklin Plaskett. There's nothing to spoiler in the bare facts. Nearly two years later, Eva struggles to make sense of her intensely problematic relationship with her now-imprisoned son in a series of letters to her "estranged husband" (so the blurb also tells us).

If it matters to the reader, Lionel Shriver is a woman -- she changed her first name in her late teens, as she hated her given name. The school shooting in the novel takes place 11 days before Columbine, and this does get repeatedly mentioned in the novel, as do a number of other real-life school shootings from the 1990's.

Anyway, it's the details of this detail-oriented novel that shouldn't be spoiled: Eva's lacerating and self-lacerating evaluations of herself and others drive the book. Is she a reliable narrator? Was Kevin born bad, made bad, or resulted from a combination of the two? Well, that's the novel, isn't it?

I note that some reviewers have referred to this novel as a "thriller," though there's nothing thrilling about it: I found it difficult to put down, but not because I was having a wild romp. You're stuck inside Eva's head for the entire novel, and that's going to be trying for a lot of readers. She isn't instantly sympathetic. I'm not entirely sure that she's even finally sympathetic, a judgement I'd extend to the two other main characters of the novel, her husband Franklin Plaskett and the eponymous Kevin.

Plaskett needs desperately to believe in the possibility of the American Dream's happy nuclear family.
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Format: Hardcover
We Need to Talk About Kevin is a masterful fictionalized account of the tortured psyche of the mother of a "bad seed" son who stages a Columbine-like massacre at his school. Although we know from the outset that this tragedy will unfold, it is through Shriver's brilliant writing that we journey into the heart and soul of the mother who both loves and hates her own creation.In letters to her estranged husband we can follow this tragedy from Eva's prenatal angst through her post murder heartbreak and guilt.Shriver takes us into the mind of Eva as she struggles to cope with the guilt and pain wrought by Kevin's unimaginable act. As Kevin's evil kernel unravels the fabric of an entire family we are there in Eva's mind trying to understand as she tries.We are angered by her husband's refusal to see.........we are saddened by her sensitive, innocent daughter's being caught in this web........we are pained by Eva's anger and heartbreak and by the love she still feels for Kevin despite everything. We are confounded by the inability to understand the reasons for this tragedy.......Ultimately we are amazed that a writer can be so brilliant in telling this story with all of its complexites. We need to talk about Shriver ......a truly gifted writer!!! ...
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