This is a tough book to review. If you check the reviews on Amazon they are all over the place. Lots of people loved it a lot hated it and even those in the middle had strong feelings about it. I, myself, almost gave up on finishing it. I am glad I struggled through it because it was a book I needed to finish and it is one that most definitely stays with you long after the final page.
Eva Khatchadourian is the mother of Kevin. We learn early on that her son, Kevin, is currently in prison, rightfully convicted of shooting to death several classmates and a teacher among others in a violent classroom massacre. Through a series of letters written to her husband, whom we assume she has divorced, she retraces life with Kevin from his unexpected, if not unwanted, birth. Eva had established a good life with her husband, Franklin. She was the owner of a company that published well-respected travel guides to the great destinations of the world and Eva spent a good deal of time visiting cities throughout the world to keep her books updated. Kevin was a problem as soon as he left her womb. He refused to milk at her breast, cried constantly, and displayed unusual behavior. Franklin dismissed Eva’s complaints as nonsense. As he grew to childhood his tantrums escalated. Kevin developed the ability to hide the bad behavior from his dad and targeted his mother with a constant barrage of misdeeds. Babysitters would quit after one or two assignments feeling he was just too much to handle. Eva had hoped that the birth of a daughter, Celia, would change Kevin. His constant animosity toward his sister quickly ended those hopes and Eva even suspected Kevin may have been responsible for a tragic accident that injured Celia.
Throughout the book, Eva, through her letters to Franklin, displays her feelings of personal guilt for what Kevin has done. She can’t help but feel that Kevin must have sensed a lack of love on her part. At other times she simply wonders if some people are simply “born bad”, sociopath in waiting. There is a bizarre twist to the story that takes place near the end that gives the book added dimension.
I mentioned in the beginning that I almost did not finish this book. I think it may have been the format of the novel, unfolding through this series of letters. Maybe it was that her husband, Franklin, never seemed to respond to her letters. I will say that Lionel Shriver is a brilliant writer. She has a command of the English language second to none and many of her sentences could almost be described as poetic beauty. If you read this book in long gulps rather than short passages, it will almost seem like you are reading non-fiction. It will most definitely make you think and feel and when a book can do that it most certainly is worth reading. We Have To Talk About Kevin is that kind of book. Despite my periods of discomfort I give it *** ½ stars.