This novel was like watching an out-of-control, speeding train: I knew the ending would feel like a horrible wreck, a crash-and-burn that would engulf my heart in flames, and yet I couldn’t bring myself to look away. Lionel Shriver gripped my heart like a vice, and there was nothing I could do about it.
Here’s part of the blurb on the jacket of the book:
If the question of who’s to blame for teenage atrocity intrigues news-watching voyeurs, it tortures our narrator, Eva Katchadourian. Two years before the opening of the novel, her son, Kevin, murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and the much-beloved teacher who had tried to befriend him.
Kudos to Lionel Shriver for tackling such a disturbing subject.
To be honest, it took me about 200 pages or so to start liking Eva. She was a bit of a hypocrite regarding American versus European thought processes and trends, opting to take the standard holier-than-thou European’s view of being superior to the ignorant, brash and uneducated American people. How offensive and annoying.
Moving on. It was plainly obvious that Eva was fully accountable for her behavior toward her son, even though she makes no apologies for their lack of bonding. She even goes so far as to blame herself for the tragedy, perhaps unnecessarily so, perhaps not. That is up to the reader to decide.
You see, Shriver was genius enough to obscure the line in the sand; we can’t really know how the author feels about the situation, but may be that’s part of the reason why I kept turning the page, despite knowing the horrible ending that awaited me.
Shriver didn’t do a very good job of adding twists and turns to keep me enthralled, but I suspect that was the point. She was direct and forthcoming with her story, keeping a steady pace throughout.
The only things I didn’t care for were trivial really, and that just boils down to a matter of personal taste. I didn’t like how she made Eva so cold during the first half of the book, but I kept in mind that these letters that made up the entirety of the novel were written by the “after Thursday” Eva. Her perceived guilt might have had something to do with how she portrayed herself during Kevin’s formative years.
Another issue for me was how she portrayed the husband, Franklin. His character comes across as being very weak minded and whiny. Seriously, someone would have to have an incredibly low IQ to be completely oblivious to their son’s true nature. Despite the sarcastic “Golly gosh gee Dad” remarks from his creepy ass son, Franklin refused to remove his rose colored glasses.
So was Kevin the sword that split through the rock of their family, or was it Franklin’s refusal to face the truth and trust his wife for once?
In the end, a mother is going to do what a mother is going to do, and I’m perfectly fine with that, because a mother’s love knows no end. Please keep that in mind if you read this book.