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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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9 Burnside Literature- A to Z

We Need to Talk about Kevin (P.S.)

by

We Need to Talk about Kevin (P.S.) Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A stunning examination of how tragedy affects a town, a marriage, and a family, for readers of Rosellen Brown's Before and After and Jane Hamilton's A Map of the World.

That neither nature nor nurture bears exclusive responsibility for a child's character is self-evident. But such generalizations provide cold comfort when it's your own son who's just opened fire on his fellow students and whose class photograph — with its unseemly grin — is blown up on the national news.

The question of who's to blame for teenage atrocity tortures our narrator, Eva Khatchadourian. Two years ago, her son, Kevin, murdered seven of his fellow high-school students, a cafeteria worker, and a popular algebra teacher. Because he was only fifteen at the time of the killings, he received a lenient sentence and is now in a prison for young offenders in upstate New York.

Telling the story of Kevin's upbringing, Eva addresses herself to her estranged husband through a series of letters. Fearing that her own shortcomings may have shaped what her son has become, she confesses to a deep, long-standing ambivalence about both motherhood in general and Kevin in particular. How much is her fault?

We Need to Talk About Kevin offers no pat explanations for why so many white, well-to-do adolescents — whether in Pearl, Paducah, Springfield, or Littleton — have gone nihilistically off the rails while growing up in suburban comfort. Instead, Lionel Shriver tells a compelling, absorbing, and resonant story while framing these horrifying tableaux of teenage carnage as metaphors for the larger tragedy — the tragedy of a country where everything works, nobody starves, and anything can be bought but a sense of purpose.

Review:

"A number of fictional attempts have been made to portray what might lead a teenager to kill a number of schoolmates or teachers, Columbine style, but Shriver's is the most triumphantly accomplished by far....It's a harrowing, psychologically astute, sometimes even darkly humorous novel." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"[W]hile Shriver attacks the phenomenon [of teenaged killers] with unflagging gusto (she heavily researched the real-life school murders of the late 1990s), she isn't preoccupied with figuring out what motivates these young men, nor does she ruminate on how a vapid American society creates adolescent monsters. Thank God for that — what we get instead is a much more interesting, thoughtful, and surprisingly credible, thriller....While the plot — that a woman's uneasy confusion about motherhood could create a killer — is over-the-top...the grandiosity of it allows Shriver ample room to explore Eva's deepest, darkest feelings about her son. It's only when Eva has lost everything that she can admit her ugliest thoughts." Suzy Hansen, Salon.com

Review:

"In crisply crafted sentences that cut to the bone of her feelings about motherhood, career, family, and what it is about American culture that produces child killers, Shriver yanks the reader back and forth between blame and empathy, retribution and forgiveness." Deborah Donovan, Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"[A] slow, magnetic descent into hell that is as fascinating as it is disturbing....And despite an unsympathetic portrait of Kevin, when at the novel's end Eva declares she loves her son, you not only believe her but you understand why." Cleveland Plain Dealer

Review:

"The timely topic...is sure to guarantee lots of attention, but the compelling writing is what will keep readers engaged....Through Eva's voice, Shriver offers a complex look at the factors that go into a parent-child relationship and at what point, if any, a parent can decide if a child is a hopeless case." Library Journal

Review:

"Powerful [and] harrowing." Entertainment Weekly

Review:

"Ms. Shriver takes a calculated risk...but the gamble pays off as she strikes a tone of compelling intimacy." Wall Street Journal

Review:

"Furiously imagined." Seattle Times

Review:

"Impossible to put down." Boston Globe

Review:

"An underground feminist hit." New York Observer

Synopsis:

The gripping international bestseller about motherhood gone awry

Eva never really wanted to be a mother — and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin's horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklyn. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.

Synopsis:

Now a major motion picture by Lynne Ramsay, starring Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly,Lionel Shrivers resonant story of a mothers unsettling quest to understandher teenage sons deadly violence, her own ambivalence toward motherhood, andthe explosive link between them reverberates with the haunting power of highhopes shattered by dark realities. Like Shrivers charged and incisive laternovels, including So Much for That and The Post-Birthday World, We Need to Talk About Kevin isa piercing, unforgettable, and penetrating exploration of violence, familyties, and responsibility, a book that the Boston Globe describes as“sometimes searing . . . [and] impossible to put down.”

About the Author

Lionel Shriver's novels include the New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday Worldand the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin, which won the 2005 Orange Prize and has now sold over a million copies worldwide. Earlier books include Double Fault, A Perfectly Good Family, and Checker and the Derailleurs. Her novels have been translated into twenty-five languages. Her journalism has appeared in the Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. She lives in London.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 5 comments:

Annelle, January 14, 2012 (view all comments by Annelle)
omg! i just finished this book and all i can say is wow! this one amazing story of how mother comes to terms with what she was dealt with for kids. it is erie, understanding, heartwarming and heartwreching. i had reread parts of it, espically at the end, i had thought that Eva and Franklin were actually separated, not as one will read the real part. i made me rethink a lot of thigs in life. wow!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Angie K, January 5, 2012 (view all comments by Angie K)
A devastating and intelligent piece of work. It is rare to find writing with this level of commitment.
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Rami, September 20, 2011 (view all comments by Rami)
We Need To Talk About Kevin is a gripping emotional look at a story that is all too often looked over. We know all about the killer, and the killed, but always very little about the killer's family, and the effect it has on them. In this novel we are given letters dripping with regret, written by Kevin's mother Eva to her estranged husband. The letters give us an insight into a much more internal world of the killer.

All in all, I'd say it was a great book. The language used was fittingly aristocratic, reflecting Eva's often snobbish outlook on life. The story gave a much needed voice to the mothers of the murderers.
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(2 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780061124297
Subtitle:
A Novel
Author:
Shriver, Lionel
Author:
Shriver, Lionel
Publisher:
Harper Perennial
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Teenage boys
Subject:
High schools
Subject:
New york (state)
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade PB
Series:
P.S.
Publication Date:
20060703
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
432
Dimensions:
7.86x5.60x1.03 in. .72 lbs.

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Related Subjects


Featured Titles » Literature
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Featured Titles
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

We Need to Talk about Kevin (P.S.) Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.95 In Stock
Product details 432 pages Harper Perennial - English 9780061124297 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A number of fictional attempts have been made to portray what might lead a teenager to kill a number of schoolmates or teachers, Columbine style, but Shriver's is the most triumphantly accomplished by far....It's a harrowing, psychologically astute, sometimes even darkly humorous novel."
"Review" by , "[W]hile Shriver attacks the phenomenon [of teenaged killers] with unflagging gusto (she heavily researched the real-life school murders of the late 1990s), she isn't preoccupied with figuring out what motivates these young men, nor does she ruminate on how a vapid American society creates adolescent monsters. Thank God for that — what we get instead is a much more interesting, thoughtful, and surprisingly credible, thriller....While the plot — that a woman's uneasy confusion about motherhood could create a killer — is over-the-top...the grandiosity of it allows Shriver ample room to explore Eva's deepest, darkest feelings about her son. It's only when Eva has lost everything that she can admit her ugliest thoughts."
"Review" by , "In crisply crafted sentences that cut to the bone of her feelings about motherhood, career, family, and what it is about American culture that produces child killers, Shriver yanks the reader back and forth between blame and empathy, retribution and forgiveness."
"Review" by , "[A] slow, magnetic descent into hell that is as fascinating as it is disturbing....And despite an unsympathetic portrait of Kevin, when at the novel's end Eva declares she loves her son, you not only believe her but you understand why."
"Review" by , "The timely topic...is sure to guarantee lots of attention, but the compelling writing is what will keep readers engaged....Through Eva's voice, Shriver offers a complex look at the factors that go into a parent-child relationship and at what point, if any, a parent can decide if a child is a hopeless case."
"Review" by , "Powerful [and] harrowing."
"Review" by , "Ms. Shriver takes a calculated risk...but the gamble pays off as she strikes a tone of compelling intimacy."
"Review" by , "Furiously imagined."
"Review" by , "Impossible to put down."
"Review" by , "An underground feminist hit."
"Synopsis" by , The gripping international bestseller about motherhood gone awry

Eva never really wanted to be a mother — and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin's horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklyn. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.

"Synopsis" by , Now a major motion picture by Lynne Ramsay, starring Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly,Lionel Shrivers resonant story of a mothers unsettling quest to understandher teenage sons deadly violence, her own ambivalence toward motherhood, andthe explosive link between them reverberates with the haunting power of highhopes shattered by dark realities. Like Shrivers charged and incisive laternovels, including So Much for That and The Post-Birthday World, We Need to Talk About Kevin isa piercing, unforgettable, and penetrating exploration of violence, familyties, and responsibility, a book that the Boston Globe describes as“sometimes searing . . . [and] impossible to put down.”
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