“I thought at the time that I couldn’t be horrified anymore, or wounded. I suppose that’s a common conceit, that you’ve already been so damaged that damage itself, in its totality, makes you safe.” –We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver
I came across this gem purely by accident. Almost every year for Christmas or my birthday (which is 6 days after Christmas) someone gets me a Barnes & Noble gift card. The year I discovered this book, I was spending my gift card and was making it a point to only pick up books that I had never heard of before. I think I was probably about 16 at the time. Anyway, I stumbled across this in the fiction section, flipped through a few pages, and was
drawn in immediately. It’s so inexplicably good.
Lionel Shriver‘s We Need to Talk About Kevin is written in a series of letters by Eva Khatchadourian to her husband, Franklin. At the beginning, we assume that Franklin and Eva have divorced based on the content of the letters. The letters begin a short time after their teenage son, Kevin, murdered several of his classmates with a crossbow. This is about the point where the reader goes, WHAT??? Yep. Eva is the mother of a psychotic mass murderer. She back tracks a bit and describes how happy she and her husband used to be and how that all began to change when Kevin is born. Apparently even as a baby, Kevin was a terrible little demon child.
The part about Kevin’s childhood is very interesting to me because we can read it a few different ways. We can accept the fact that Eva is a reliable narrator and that Kevin is actually evil, or we can question Eva’s reliability and speculate that Kevin is actually a normal child and she is seeing what she wants to see. And she never really wanted Kevin to begin with. I definitely need to reread this, but I personally believe that Kevin is a little Satan spawn. (You learn more as you go on.)
Anyway, Kevin gets worse, Franklin takes his side, Eva cries a lot, and then they have another baby named Celia because Eva so desperately needs a kid that isn’t a demon. When Celia gets older, she gets some cleaner in her eye and loses it. Did Kevin pour it in her eye, or was it an accident? So many questions.
Towards the end of the novel, Eva gets back to the details surrounding Kevin’s murder rampage and reveals that before he went to school that day, he also murdered Franklin and Celia. So Eva and Franklin never got divorced, he died and this is her way of coping with his death. The book ends with Eva visiting Kevin in prison two years after the murders and she finally asks him why he did it, to which he answers that he is no longer sure.
The movie adaptation? Super weird! But Tilda Swinton was a good choice for Eva and Ezra Miller SLAYED as Kevin. I wasn’t crazy about John C. Reilly as Franklin (mostly because I’m used to seeing him in stuff like Stepbrothers), but I can overlook it. The movie is very disorienting and you kind of feel like you’re in a fog as you’re watching it. I suppose that makes sense since it’s categorized as a psychological thriller. Also, I am firmly convinced that if you try to watch it without reading the book first, you would be lost. Read the book first!