Kevin Khatchadourian, famously known as “KK”, killed nine people in his high school gym, in the process earning a long jail sentence and infamy – for him and his mother Eva. In a series of letters to her husband, Eva lays out the fabric of their lives from the beginning of their love story to Kevin’s fateful day in the gymnasium. Confronting difficult questions, such as who is to blame for a child’s violence, Eva lays her heart out for her husband and the reader.
I have heard so very much about this book since its publication date. It’s easy to know what it’s about; it’s revealed on the first few pages. Even then, though, it’s absolutely devastating as it continues to its inexorable end. It’s only as the book goes on do we realize how much Eva’s life changes because of an act her son committed. He’s gone to jail, but she’s lost her company, her house, her social life. She’s gone from traveling the world to write guidebooks for her highly successful company to staying in mostly to avoid acts of revenge.
The most important question the novel asks is whether or not a child’s crime can be the parents’ fault. Much as she tried, Eva struggled to love Kevin. She felt that he was malevolent when he was a baby and almost everything he did encouraged her suspicions. But Eva is wrong a time or two, which causes us to question just how evil Kevin really was, and what really drove him to kill like that. I think the saddest part is that even early on we realize that Eva does love Kevin even if she resented him from the start. She had him mainly to keep the husband she loved so desperately happy, which is always a mistake, but I thought she recognized more of herself in him than she ever wanted to admit.
As for my own experience, I recognized almost too much of my own self in Eva (how horrible is that?). She often comments on how she’s really too selfish to be a mother, she still wants to have her own life and somewhat resents her children for becoming more important than she is. I think every mother must have selfish moments – otherwise she wouldn’t be human – but I have to say it made me worry. And, of course, the fact that your kid could turn out to be a murderer is scary, but it happens to millions of mothers.
Despite its often difficult subject matter, I had a hard time putting We Need To Talk About Kevin down. I found myself thinking about it when I wasn’t reading and talking about it to everyone who had an ear to listen. It truly was fascinating and I found it completely deserving of its Orange Prize.
I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free from the publisher for review, but I already had a copy. Expect a giveaway soon!