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Bibliomaniac Scarlet

I came here to keep in touch with all my friends who left GR after the censorship debacle. I read a little of every genre. I co-blog at Musings of a Bibliomaniac.

Currently reading

Burial Rites
Hannah Kent
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Ana Juan, Catherynne M. Valente
Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

We Need to Talk About.... Kevin? Or Eva?

We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver

I knew before I started that reading this was going to be hard. We Need to Talk about Kevin is listed as one of the most disturbing books on GR. So, in an attempt to limit the coming agony, I made a few rules:


RULE 1: Do not get emotionally involved.


RULE 2: Do not take sides.


RULE 3: Do not dwell on the disturbing parts.


A hundred pages later, when I put the book down and went to bed only to replay and obsess over Eva’s commentary in my head, I realized my rules were long broken.


I got emotionally involved. I always do. I wish I could say that Eva's so horrible that I couldn't relate to her but a teeny-tiny part of me did, especially at the start. Crying babies terrify me and I’ve always harbored a lot of reservations about having kids. I’m not saying I never want to have kids; that would be a stupid thing to say considering I wasn’t even an adult four years ago. But I’m the kind of girl who gets a panic attack when she's asked to babysit her hyperactive nephews.


I took sides. Right from the start, I unconsciously sided with Eva. True, the way she thought of her son repulsed me at times, but I felt Kevin’s actions were more repulsive. For me, Kevin was quintessentially evil, and Eva was the poor woman who had the misfortune of bearing him. The fact that she didn’t want to have him in the first place just seemed to make her more of a victim.


As for not dwelling on the disturbing parts...well, there are NO PARTS. The book in entirety is a systematically harrowing tale with no escape. The only way to skip the distress would be to stop reading the book itself, and while that thought did cross my mind, the bibliophile in me couldn’t stay away. So I persisted. I bore the mental anguish. I let Eva’s commentary drill into my brain.


And that's my answer to why I love this ugly, ugly book. It caused me to recoil in horror so many times, but also made me come back to it every single time. Every minute I was reading, I wanted to stop; yet when I put the book down, I wanted to pick it up again. Like being addicted to something unpleasant and craving it, even when that voice in your head begs you not to.


This is an uncharacteristically long review, but there’s one last thing I want to add. This book left me with a question that’s bothered me for days. Like I said, I’ve always been on Eva’s side, but the last 4 pages made me reconsider. I mean, whatever Kevin did is inexcusable and gruesome, and I still feel for Eva, but who’s the culprit and who’s the victim?


What’s the cause and what’s the effect?


Is Eva such a cold mother because Kevin is who he is? Or did Kevin become who he is because Eva is such a cold mother?


In the end, who do we really need to talk about? Kevin? Or Eva?


I’ve ruminated over this question for days, but I feel it’s best to leave it unanswered. Because whatever the truth may be, it’s bound to be hideous.



“It must be possible to earn a devotion by testing an antagonism to its very limit, to bring people closer through the very act of pushing them away. Because after three days short of eighteen years, I can finally announce that I am too exhausted and too confused and too lonely to keep fighting, and if only out of desperation or even laziness I love my son.”