Journal entry for 2/26/10:
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Started 2/9/10, finished 2/14/10.
Recommend? – I would definitely recommend this novel – especially for a book club. Shriver’s writing is intricate, well researched and intelligent. This bold, if somewhat dark story about a mother’s journey with a ‘trying’ child and the tragedy this child causes brings the nature versus nurture question to the forefront of any mother’s mind and will inspire lively discussion.
The one apprehension I have about recommending this book is for the black and white methods Shriver used in creating the characters and the events that shape the story. Can a child be bad and difficult in every action from the literal moment he is born? I’m not sure. Can another child be perfect? From reading the discussion portion at the back of the book, I understand that Shriver’s intent with the story was to bring about dialog concerning the nature versus nurture debate. Knowing this, I understand the polarizing methods she employs, but it is still a little stifling and repressive to read. The feeling is similar to that of Jodi Picoult’s novels – where the characters are flat and the emotions tend toward the excessive and cliche.
Although the feelings and events of the story seem very one-sided towards the negative and extreme, the author accomplishes the goal of forcing the reader to explore their own feelings towards a child’s nature. Who is responsible for a child’s actions once he is grown? Are children blank slates, waiting for our complete guidance and love to show them how to behave and live? And if they choose differently from what they are taught, is that a parent’s fault – or was the child predetermined to act a particular way? Are their personalities so ingrained that no matter how much love and attention they are showered with, their fate (and ours) are left to chance?
anodyne – anything that relieves distress or pain
aegis – protection; support
“A child needs your love most when he deserves it least.” -Erma Bombeck
“How lucky we are when spared what we think we want.”
Comments and thoughts:
As the mother of a difficult child myself, I really appreciated the dialog the book opens up about guilt, attachment and the nature vs. nurture argument. It was nice to see that other mothers might have less than perfect feelings towards their child and that children tend to act less than perfect no matter what devices a mother employs.
Have you read We Need to Talk About Kevin? What did you think?