Spoiler Alert – if you haven’t read this book, but plan to, please don’t read this. I try really hard to never spoil books when I do a review – but this one, I just can’t contain it.
This book is the epitome of a parent’s worst nightmare. While I believe it is fiction, Shriver writes so eloquently that it appears to be a true story.
This is a story about motherhood, about parenthood, about mental illness and about guilt.
It’s about a boy, filled with rage and hatred from his very birth, who mercilessly murders his family and his classmates.
It’s about a Mother, filled with guilt about her son’s heinous crimes.
It’s about a Father, blinded by love for his only son and unwilling to see the warning signs.
Mostly it’s about a woman – a woman who never really wanted kids, but loved her husband so much she gave him what she knew he wanted. A woman who was given a child who bore such a natural hate and aversion to her, right from birth, that it shattered her. A woman who was admittedly selfish to the core, and unable to connect with the child she perceived had ruined everything. A woman who was broken, and confused, and hurt, and trying to make the best of a terrible situation. A woman who was dedicated to this child, despite the heinous crime he had committed. A woman determined to punish herself for her mistakes, certain they led to her son’s murder spree. A woman sometimes so completely normal, so completely broken, so completely uncertain that it’s hard not to relate, on some level, to her. Yet, she is very easy to hate…she actually welcomes it.
What is most interesting to me is how happy, healthy and successful they were before they had children. They thrived. But, she was determined that her husband was not happy enough – so she decided to have a child. That child became the very thing that tore their marriage, their love and their happiness to shreds – and later, ripped her husband and her daughter from her life.
Kevin is portrayed as a sociopath. Uninterested in almost everything, even from toddler hood. He is untouchable because he forms no connection to anything. He simply exists, completely in control of every single situation. His malice shows itself multiple times through his childhood, but his Father is completely blinded to his sons odd and alarming behaviour and fiercely defends him. In the end, his father paid with his life for his intentional ignorance. It’s very easy to hate Kevin, but at times – he shows himself as so very human.
In the end, I find the book is about two sociopaths – one more severe than the other. Eva was not a killer – but she was unstable, prone to selfishness, bitter, angry, hurt and, yet, completely unwilling to change anything. Her husband was the counter balance – constantly siding with Kevin, disregarding anything Eva said, and committing her to the role of “less than” which only fueled her dislike for her child. Even though he paid with his life, Franklin was as much part of the problem as Eva was. Then there was Kevin – a killer. While Kevin and Eva were not the same, I think Kevin recognized, in his Mother, a lot of his traits that made him a sociopath and led to his killing spree. He was just a more dangerous version of her…and through their connection, she was as close as it got to someone who actually understood him – and therefore spared her from the killing.
As you can see – this book has given me so much food for thought. Initially, I found it very hard to get through because of the way it was written but around the midway point it picked up and I just couldn’t put it down. It’s definitely interesting, terrifying and thought provoking…but I won’t recommend it because I know it is not for everyone.