Thursday, August 27, 2009

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

In We Need to Talk About Kevin, Eva writes a series of letters to her estranged husband. Franklyn. In those letters she talks about their lives together and those of her children. She writes a lot about her son, Kevin, who on that one fateful Thursday walks into his school and brutally murders some of his classmates, a cafeteria worker and a teacher. She's brutally honest about how she feels and even wonders if she's at fault for Kevin's actions.

Even though I loved this book, it took me a few pages to get into the story. I think the way it was presented, through letters, distracted me. About the time Eva started writing about Kevin, I got used to the format and my interest soared. After that, I didn't want to put the book down. In fact, a few times it kept me up way past my bedtime. I'm always looking for something different, so it was exciting to read a novel that was presented in such a unique way.

Because all of the letters are written by Eva, we only get to hear her side of the story. She tells us what other people think and feel, but it's through her eyes that we see these people and their views. I kept wondering if there was something she wasn't telling us. Was she mentally incompetent? Could we trust what she was saying or writing in this case? I wondered how different the story would be had it been from another character' point of view, say Franklyn, Kevin, or even Celia.

I really loved how the story unfolded through Eva's letters. We get some of the story chronologically, but that doesn't stop Eva from interjecting other events and details into her letters as she sees fit. This way we get bits and pieces of what happened, but we don't get the whole story until the very end. It was suspenseful, to say the least.

When Shriver included other real life serial killers in this story I was ambivalent about it. I really wanted to hear about Kevin, not these other school shooters who've already had their 15 minutes of "fame". Don't get me wrong, it's not that I wasn't interested. I followed each and every one of their stories closely on CNN as they were happening. My eyes were glued to the TV and I remembered many of their names and details of their horrendous acts. I just thought it was Kevin's turn; his story that needed to be told. However, I then realized that Kevin's story became more real to me every time Eva and Kevin referenced the others. For me, it was like Kevin was one of them; the one I missed seeing on CNN.

I'm always delighted to find an edition of a HarperCollins book with a P.S. section at the back. This added bonus was very enlightening, especially the "About the Book" section where Shriver talks about writing this book and the response she's gotten.

I've read one other book by Shriver, The Post-Birthday World . As you can tell by my review, I loved it.

Highly recommended. I'm looking forward to reading many more books by Lionel Shriver. I just love her work.

For more information about this book or to Browse Inside, please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.


  1. It's so funny- I was at the library today looking for another book and came across this one. I promptly put it on my wish list, and this review has intrigued me even more....thanks!!!!

  2. I'm not reading your review. I have this from the library now after having read most of the book online. I plan to finish it over the weekend while camping (in the rain) and then I'll be back to read your thoughts.


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