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review 2020-07-08 16:01
Motherhood angst x 1,000,000
We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver

The novel is written as a series of letters from the mother of mass murderer Kevin Khatchadourian to her husband. The mother is Eva Khatchadourian, and Armenian- American woman who loves to travel the world and built a business empire from travel books.


The letters begin in 2000, two years after Kevin murdered class-mates and school staff in a carefully planned massacre for which he harbours no regret.


As the chapters unfold we build a picture of a woman pressured into motherhood by her all-American husband, Franklin. The prose style is indicative of a pretentious and self- involved snob, who thankfully becomes more sympathetic as her story unfolds. It looks at how society blames mothers (but not fathers) for the crimes of their children, and a mother’s generalised fear that any lack of parental skills on their part, might create a sociopath.


The story isn’t solely about Kevin. Eva’s dislike of American culture and her complicated relationship with her own mother, and the effect of mass media on our society are all important themes. However, when Eva does write about Kevin she describes a forceful and indignant baby, which she feared even before his birth, and failed to emotionally bond with as an infant. A boy who delighted in torturing his mother, vandalising her study, refusing food, toys and attention. What builds through this constant rejection is an erosion of self that mothers too often experience, but writ large, because Kevin is a terrifying, calculating, lying and abusive boy. Franklin assumes that any failure lies with Eva, and that Kevin is a bright and loving son. She continues begging her estranged husband to believe her two years after their son was arrested.


Eva may be vindicated by history, but her fears were ignored or explained away by Franklin, throughout Kevin’s childhood, while Kevin’s dark influence grew more oppressive in Eva’s imagination. A family tragedy involving a bottle of drain-fluid might elevate Kevin to quick-thinking hero in his father’s mind, but Eva finds it easier to believe Kevin is to blame when his little sister loses an eye.


A question asked after real life school shootings might be, how did the parents not see it coming? Eva does see something coming, perhaps not exactly what happens, but something unforgivable; the trouble is no one believes her. And this gas-lighting of women’s fears and the assumption that a mother, however accomplished, will put her life on hold for her children is at the heart of this novel.


Why did Kevin do it? No one knows, not even Kevin himself.

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review 2018-10-02 18:36
Lionel Shriver: We Need to Talk About Kevin
We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver

This book is excellent in every way. This was not the right time for me to read it. Even with the anxiety it caused in me, however, I couldn't put it down. Now that I have finished it, I wonder if I will pick it up again...perhaps once my kid has survived high school (touch-wood).

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-11-02 00:00
We Need to Talk About Kevin
We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver I really loved this book although I do question how realistic it actually was...can children really be born evil to the core, as I believe Kevin was in this novel? I'm not completely sure of the answer to that but this book certainly addresses the age old question of nature vs. nurture and leaves me wondering how much responsibility, and blame, if any, should be placed upon parents when their child does something horribly wrong like massacring his classmates. I suppose the answer to that differs from case to case but in the example of Kevin, I don't believe that his mother, Eva, was in any way at fault or responsible for the actions of her son and like I said- the boy was basically the devils spawn and evil through and through. Shriever did a great job with the character development in this book, particularly with Kevin, because I can honestly say I absolutely hated him from the time he was only a toddler and I found myself extremely satisfied when Eva threw 6 year old Kevin across the room after he intentionally shit his pants for the third time in an hour. That must make me sound horrible to those who haven't read this book, wishing harm upon a 6 year old, but he was such a calculated, manipulating, vindictive, mean spirited little twit that I couldn't help myself. And was he ever smart! The way he took the divide and conquer approach on his parents, outsmarting his father and playing him like a fiddle while his mother, who saw him for the monster he really was, was made to look like a heartless, unstable, crazy person because of it! As Kevin grew older and the little girl, Celia, was born and victimized by him I grew to hate him even more. Why Eva didn't take that sweet, kind, innocent little girl and run as fast and as far as she could from her evil son, who continued you grow progressively worse with age, is a mystery to me. I was appalled that she still continued to visit her son after he was incarcerated. If he had killed only his classmates (not to minimize the severity of that tragedy one bit) that would be one thing, but the fact that he killed his father and sister, Eva's husband and daughter, seems absolutely unforgivable for any parent, ever! Not to mention he didn't have one single iota of remorse for anything he'd done and continued to bask in the glory of his fame, comparing himself to other teenage killers and gloating about it when Eva visited him. The fact that she was ultimately willing to forgive him and had a room in her home ready and waiting for him to move into after he was released from his slap-on-the-wrist seven year sentence made me sick to my stomach. It was far from the ending I would have concocted for Kevin had I been the author. I found the need to remind myself quite often while reading this book that it's just a story, this didn't really happen, Kevin doesn't exist, and there's no point getting upset and angry over a fictional character, lol! That's one reason why I love this book so much, because it is very convincing and able to evoke such strong emotions, what more could anyone ask of a book? Directly after I finished the book I watched the movie adaptation on Netflix and that was extremely disappointing. There was so much left out of the movie that I feel sorry for those who didn't read the book and only watched the movie because so much would have been missed, overlooked and unexplained, like reading cliff notes instead of an entire novel. I guess the general message was still there but it was so much more powerful, with much better delivery, in print format, imo. Again, I struggle to think of this book as realistic because it's truly scary to think some children are just born rotten to the core but it's certainly a great form of birth control because I would rather remain abstinent then risk bringing a child like Kevin into this world.
I gave this book an easy five star rating because although I didn't agree with the way Eva continued to support her son and even forgive him, ultimately, this was undeniably a thought provoking and emotion evoking novel that was well written and extremely compelling. I highly recommend it!
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review 2016-06-19 00:00
The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047
The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 - Lionel Shriver

A special thank you to Edelweiss and HarperCollins for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Not my favourite of Shriver's work, in fact, I struggled with even finishing. A futuristic dystopian story is an acquired taste and not really at the top of my heap, so I guess your are wondering why I even requested this title. The truth is, I find Shriver brilliant and her works fascinating and couldn't wait to get my hands on this. Unfortunately, it totally missed the mark. It is too heavy on the economics and the reader is bogged down with way too much detail; this should've been the backdrop of the story, not forefront.

There was a lack of character development partly because there are so many characters, and partly because she simply covers too much ground, thus the story becomes ineffective and misses the mark. I did appreciate her cheeky humour, but feel I may have missed a lot of the subtle nuances that make Shriver great because I simply checked out.


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review 2016-06-05 23:51
Scary and only too believable
The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 - Lionel Shriver

This book tells the tale of the economic collapse in the US in 2029. Cabbage is $20 a head.  The robots were once called “bots” but they’ve taken over so many jobs, they’re now called “robs”. Showers are taken once a week to save water.  There’s a new global currency, the “bancor”.  The US President announces that the government is defaulting on all loans.  Banks shut down and accounts are frozen.  Inflation is out of control leading to chaos.  The government demands that citizens turn over all gold to them.  Unfortunately, this whole story is far too believable.


Great Grand Man is 97 years old. The Mandible family (and there are a lot of family members) is waiting for him to die so they can inherit his sizeable fortune.  But now not only has that fortune vanished, but they must struggle to survive.  A new world is born and the author does a fabulous job of describing the changes.  There is a truly chilling scene of the army coming into a home with metal detectors searching for hidden gold, with the threat of prison and a $250,000 fine should they find any.  The book takes the family through to 2047 where what’s left of the family ends up in the United States of Nevada.


This is written as a satire and with a dry wit. It’s a very clever book.  I chose this book because I thought “We Need to Talk About Kevin” was such a powerful book so I was anxious to read her newest effort.  This is a very different type of book.  Although I’ve read reviews saying that the book is slow to start, I enjoyed the first quarter of the story very much but by the time I was half way through, I began to lose interest.  I thought the book went on far too long and had made its point early on and the rest was just repetitive.  The author does such an excellent job in detailing human reaction to these disturbing events that I wish she could have curbed some of the social commentary and long financial lessons that just seemed to bog the book down.


This book was given to me by the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

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