There is one advantage to the fact that “We Need to Talk About Kevin” was made into a film and that is I get to put a picture of Kevin’s mother on the post. Unfortunately, none of the other books I will be covering in this part will have been made into a film so enjoy this one. The book is totally written from the mother’s perspective and so in “We Need to Talk About Kevin” we get the best insight into what she is like.
A bit of background on Eva. She is a self made, successful businesswoman who started her own travel company, A Wing and A Prayer, from nothing. “That’s where the problem is” some of you might be saying. Accusing Eva of focusing on her career instead of being a mother to Kevin and that’s what led him to go into his school with a crossbow and murder seven of his classmates and two adults. But as you read on, the validity of any such ideas becomes rapidly questionable. In Kevin’s early years, she took time off and basically ran the business from home so she could look after her son. That means it might be better to look at other possibilities of the mother being responsible for the son’s actions.
Throughout the book, the one aspect that becomes crystal clear is that Eva never really bonds with Kevin. The whole story seems to portray mother and son at odds with each other whether it is toileting, nursery school or failed play dates. As we read more from Eva’s past reflections, we begin to doubt whether or not she has any maternal instinct or she even loves her son at all. She states often that she never really wanted a child, she just went along with it to keep her husband happy. But did this in any way contribute to the deeds that Kevin performed?
Eva wrangles with this in her mind through the entire story but she also tries to shift the blame onto Kevin. She paints her son as evil and sees in her mind that he is always conspiring against her. Everything she watches her son do, she concludes that there is some alternative motive behind it, that he’s trying to get to her through all of his actions. Even when her husband, Kevin’s father, points out the good in Kevin, she refuses to see it. Instead, she believes it’s her husband who is blind to what Kevin is really like. Two good examples from the story are 1) When Kevin’s younger sister, Celia, has an accident that causes her to lose an eye, the father can only see how he tried to help his sister and that it was only an accident. Eva, on the other hand, believes that it is no accident and that he intentionally set out to injure his sister. 2)And I’m very disappointed this was cut from the film, was when the parents have to go to a school meeting because Kevin and a friend made an allegation against one of the teachers of sexual misconduct towards them. The father insists that Kevin is the victim of a predatory adult while Eva is of the firm mind that Kevin tried to get the teacher in trouble through a false claim.
But what of Kevin himself? With many people so quick to blame Eva after the shooting, should the blame simply be shifted on him? Unlike the school shooters in the other books, Kevin was not bullied. Other pupils were in fact, afraid of him. He was an outcast only because he chose to be but unlike others, he was successful in adopting the chameleon trait and melt away into the school population. So, since none of the more classic symptoms of school shooters are present in Kevin, it has to be Eva’s fault, right? After all, we read that she never really wanted him in the first place. Yes, it’s easy to blame Eva even though she spends the entire book trying to make sense of the whole thing. But is it her fault? To me that’s too easy.
Another standout for this book in contrast with the others is that after the school shooting, Eva is the only parent to be sued by the parents of one of the victims. She is sued on the grounds of being a negligent parent in not raising her son to not kill people. This seems to happen often in school shootings but in Eva’s case, she does win, although she is not granted costs from the losing side. So why sue Eva in the first place? My reason: the fact that she was quite wealthy through her travel business. That made her a juicy target for grieving parents who were horn swaddled by litigation crocodiles. The other shooters were of less affluent means. You could say that because the civil case was unsuccessful, that proves Eva wasn’t at fault, a good point for debate on that one.
Before, I close, one scene in the book that amuses me was when Eva takes Kevin out for the day in an attempt to bond with him. They go to a restaurant and the conversation turns to Eva bashing Americans, pointing out their many faults. Kevin dutifully takes notes and uses Eva’s words against her in rebuttal. I thought that was brilliant and I wonder if Lionel Shriver holds similar views to Americans. Still with that said, at the end, the book leaves me in limbo as to whether or not we should blame Eva for her son’s rampage. Personally, for all her shortfalls that get revealed in the story, I can’t say that she should be held responsible for Kevin.
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