Saturday, November 14, 2009

October – We Need to Talk about Kevin

Well, this certainly takes the cake on late posts, doesn't it? There was a moment where I was worried that this still wouldn't be up by the time we meet this Tuesday! In a way, I have to wonder if there wasn't a small part of me that didn't want to write this post all, because this novel leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk about Kevin was an incredibly disturbing novel. You could say, it's a haunting tale of motherhood.
For those of you who have not read this novel, it is a novel about the nature-vs.-nurture argument. Written through a series of letters from the point of view of Eva Katchedorian, it tells of a Mother's struggle to raise the son she wasn't sure she wanted, and then of Eva's heartache that follows a violent event. A violent event masterminded and executed by her teenage son, Kevin.
Some of our members wondered whether or not Eva was suffering from post-partum depression. The book never explicitly confirms or denies, and the reader is left wondering. Eva's feelings toward Kevin when he was born are questionable. But can they be fully explained by post-partum? Who can say for sure?
We also wondered if there was something wrong with Kevin—biologically speaking—that caused him to act out in the ways that he did. Most of our members agreed that there very well might have been an underlying issue. However, Kevin's father's stubborn refusal to accept or acknowledge that there was anything wrong with Kevin likely prevented Kevin to get any help that he may have needed. Kevin's father's blindness and negligence is an absolute mitigating factor in the tragic events perpetrated by Kevin. For crying out loud—Kevin's Dad provided the murder weapon as a Christmas gift!
Eva's ability to unbiasedly narrate her story is also questionable. It is hard to trust her because we never get to peer into the minds of anyone else. How can we be sure that Eva's accounts of the terror Kevin put her through are accurate, or not grossly exaggerated? Truth be told, we cannot be sure at all. Eva is hyper-critical and snotty. It seemed to the members that although Eva by trade writes books for the masses, her own language is so hoity-toity that it's repellent.
This leads me to a critique of Shriver's novel as a whole. The language was inaccessible. We were not allowed to like, or even sympathize with for that matter, any of the characters because Shriver's language was grossly over-the-top.
In the end, we find out that Eva keeps a room for Kevin to return to when he has finished serving his sentence. We wondered why Eva was taking him back. The answer is simple. Despite the fact that Kevin tortured her, killed her daughter and her husband, and a number of his classmates, Eva plans to take Kevin in upon his release. Why? Because I guess a mother's love never dies.
This was an intense novel, and despite the lofty language, I do recommend it. It brings to the fore discussions about things that people generally don't talk about.
Lynn called this novel uncomfortable, and I think that's the point. This novel is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable. There's nothing about this novel that should make you feel warm and fuzzy. It should make you feel uncomfortable, and that's why I am recommending it. Sometimes we need to feel uncomfortable.

Our next meeting is this Tuesday at 7:30 in the usual location. We are reading Muriel Barbury's The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Some of you have contacted me about this novel already—sorry I had no idea that the first half of the novel read like a nightmarish text from Philosophy 101. (Dr. Conter, anyone?) However, I actually did end up actually sort of enjoying this novel—so keep on reading! A cute little story emerges in the second half of the book, and the ending is a shocker, I can say that much.

See you all on Tuesday!