Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Book Club: “We Need to Talk About Kevin”

Holy crap, that was an intense read. Especially as a new mom to a baby son. In some ways, I could relate to Eva — the fear that she’d made a “mistake,” for example, was a fear that was very real to me in the early days of Jackson’s life when he screamed at piercing tones around the clock for about two or three weeks straight. Even admitting that here — that a part of me worried I’d made a mistake that would cost me not just myself but my husband, too — I can relate to Eva’s shame and worry at being seen as a bad mother. What kind of mother admits to believing her child was a mistake, after all? An exhausted one, for one thing. A mother who, in a state of overwhelming fatigue, wild hormones, and raw shell-shockness, experiences something like trauma and imagines the worst — that it will last forever.

Lucky for me, the trauma didn’t last. Not so lucky for Eva, hers only seemed to grow. Poor, poor Eva.

So, here’s the question she doesn’t think matters: Was she responsible for Thursday? And why do you think Kevin spared her and not Celia or Franklin? Why did Eva never consider leaving Franklin? She had the money — she could have gotten herself her own place back in Tribeca and given Franklin a generous amount of child support to keep him — and Kevin — off her back. Why, as miserable as she was, did she never consider that? And why, if she thought herself such a terrible mother, did she have a second baby? Of course, she hoped a second baby would prove that she wasn’t a terrible mother — that she could, in fact, love and nurture a child, and that Kevin was Kevin to no fault of her own but simply because that’s the way nature made him. So, do you think she succeeded at proving that? Did Celia provide enough proof that Eva could be a good mother? And if so, what does it say about Eva’s mothering that Celia ended up dead — and not before losing an eye? What do you think Kevin will be like when he’s released from prison after serving seven years?

* Don’t forget to get a copy of next month’s DW book club selection: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

82 comments… add one
  • avatar

    MissDre February 28, 2012, 1:33 pm

    OMG I just have to say that I did NOT see the ending coming at all. I kept wondering throughout the book, does her ex husband not allow her to visit her daughter? What do Franklin and Celia think of Kevin now? Even when she was talking about how frustrated she was that he wasn’t answering his phone that day… I didn’t see it coming. It was when she noticed the dishes that I was like, oh shit! And then I cried and cried and cried when I read what he did to Celia.

    Ultimately, I don’t think Eva was responsible for Thursday. Could she have been a better mother and maybe less self absorbed? Of course. But there are plenty of people in this world who had wonderful, loving families and when on to commit acts just as horrible as Kevin’s. I don’t think it’s her fault.

    This book really freaked me out. I found it really hard to get into Eva’s shoes. She didn’t seem to want to be a mother, something I don’t understand at all because I want it so much. It was hard to see things from her point of view. But, I did eventually begin to feel sympathy for her, and of course I wish things had turned out better for her.

    Phew. This book was just nuts. It was worth reading for sure, but I don’t think I would read it again.

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    • avatar

      MissDre February 28, 2012, 2:03 pm

      I also want to say that all throughout the book, I really wanted to hear a psychologist’s opinion of Kevin.

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    • Jess

      Jess of CGW February 28, 2012, 2:53 pm

      I totally saw it coming and prayed I was wrong through the whole read…

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    • avatar

      applescruff February 28, 2012, 3:19 pm

      I was stunned that Kevin had killed Celia. I wasn’t surprised about his father – I mean, I didnt see it coming, but it didn’t shock me. I had to read the part about Celia a few times before I believed she wasn’t just pinned to the target by her clothes. The reason that shocked me was because when Kevin was so sick, and let his mother take care of him, it became clear that he had such disdain for his father. But, when he was sick he also let little Celia come in and pat his head, etc. Do you think he killed Franklin and Celia to punish his mother? Or did he spare his mother?

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow February 28, 2012, 3:21 pm

        I think he wanted his mother all to himself.

        But yeah… I went back and re-read the part where Celia was pinned, believing she was alive but just stuck there. I seriously felt the shock and disbelief the same way Eva must have been feeling it.

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      • avatar

        Elizabeth February 28, 2012, 3:32 pm

        I think Kevin left his mother alive to punish her.
        I had a very hard time getting into the book. I found the mom’s writing so pretensious. Finally, in desperation to read it before my book club met, I read the end and then went back to the beginning. I had a much easier time reading it and understanding where she was coming from once I understood the incident. I don’t think it took anything away from the book knowing the “twist” ahead of time – it actually made me like it more.

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      • avatar

        silver_dragon_girl February 28, 2012, 3:34 pm

        I had the same problem getting into it, and I also peeked at the ending. So I haven’t actually finished the book yet, but I have a good idea of what happens. Totally agreed that the writing style is utterly pretentious, though. I had zero connection to Eva for the first several chapters…I didn’t like her as a person at all.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Wendy February 28, 2012, 3:52 pm

        It took me about 300 pages to get into the (400-page) book. I only finished it last night. Well, this morning, really, since I fell asleep with three pages left to read. I didn’t like the writing voice at all, but I think that was kind of the point?

        I also figured out pretty early on that Kevin killed Franklin. But then Celia came along and I wasn’t sure whether she would get killed as well. But after the eye incident, I decided that that was probably a pretty good bet.

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      • avatar

        MissDre February 28, 2012, 3:58 pm

        I had a hard time understand half of her vocabulary. I always thought vocabulary was a strong point of mine but… apparently not.

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      • Betsy

        Betsy February 28, 2012, 4:15 pm

        The dictionary on my kindle came in quite handy!

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  • MaterialsGirl

    MaterialsGirl February 28, 2012, 1:33 pm

    I’m no psychologist, but I felt that part of Kevin’s attachment to his mother (and it really was, he felt she was the only one that really “saw who he REALLY was), was pseudo-sexual. Maybe I read into the bathroom masturbation scene too much, maybe not. Sorta made the theory that he was trying to punish her moot after the ‘tv interview’ where he had the photo of her as well as being extremely protective of her parenting skills. I thought she WAS a good mother, even proved it with Celia, because it is easy to love someone who loves you back so much. With Kevin, that ‘love receptor’ was incredibly flawed. I think I read “he was angry with me for being born into this world, for leaving the warm womb” (i’m paraphrasing).
    The ‘bad mother’ bit was something that Kevin sensed she felt, and then mind f*ed her on. Explains why she had to leave the map room as-is to prove she was sane, that she wasn’t making Kevin’s behavior up. Kevin killed Franklin and Celia because Franklin was the type he HATED.. he pandered to him and his “perfect family” ideal. Franklin was the person who least understood him. Celia, with her undying affection for him, was a roadblock between him and the full attention of his mother. She also had a passion: life/love. He hated/killed those people who felt a purpose or joy in something; feelings that he was incapable of. His mother loved travel: he took it away. She loved her Celia and Franklin: took them away. Even in her own way she loved Kevin: he made it difficult.
    Sounds like he will be living with his mother when he gets out. He seemed scared of the adult prison, and no doubt will have much abuse to deal with. He won’t suddenly show loads of emotion, but he may serve to provide some solace to his mother, however messed up that may be.

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  • Heather

    Heather February 28, 2012, 1:39 pm

    I absolutely loved this book. I know some people criticized it, but I thought it was a fantastic critique on motherhood, and the details that go along with it, as well as the, forgive me for saying because I can’t think of a better term, “School Shooting Culture”.

    When events like this happen, the general public understandably is searching for answers. Why did this person do this? Was it angry music? Did the parents go wrong somewhere? Nature or nurture?

    Although the book suggests that maybe Eva’s overall apathetic attitude during the term of her pregnancy MAY have had an effect on Kevin. However, what I got out of it was essentially that line from The Dark Knight. “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” Its possible that Kevin just liked to watch people suffer, or that he was so apathetic about life, about everything, as Eva described him. I mean think about it. The public wants a good answer to why someone would kill innocent people. But to me, there is no good answer.

    EDIT: For anyone who hasn’t seen the film, if you enjoyed the book, you will like it as well. Ezra Miller, Tilda Swinton, and everyone else do an EXCELLENT job.

    I think that Kevin spared Eva because she was the only one in his family that he knew saw through him. He had a level of respect for her, if that was possible for him, that he wouldn’t have for his father and sister (because of how easy they were to fool and manipulate). I’ll admit, that ending scene where she’s describing Thursday in the gym and finding her husband and daughter was brutal, and really stuck with me.

    Overall I loved it, SO much more than The Marriage Plot (except I realized in hindsight that I really enjoy that book more after thinking about it than I did while reading it).

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    • avatar

      MissDre February 28, 2012, 2:02 pm

      I felt like he left her alive as a way to further torture her. Franklin and Celia, he didn’t give a shit about, so it was easy for him to just kill them. But he hated Eva, so leaving her alive to find her husband and daughter dead, to face the aftermath of his acts, and to suffer alone was the worst punishment he could inflict on her.

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      • MaterialsGirl

        MaterialsGirl February 28, 2012, 2:05 pm

        I did too, until he started to show a softening, if you will. Was he hating Eva because he really hated himself?

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      • Heather

        Heather February 28, 2012, 2:26 pm

        I might have thought that, but I disagree because of the way he defended her in the TV interview he did. If he was really trying to get to her, he would have condemned her on that interview for everyone to see, making it worse for her and pushing it in her face. Also, he gave her Celia’s eye as well. I don’t think he did that to hurt her (when he told her not to open the container or whatever he kept it in).

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      • avatar

        bethany February 28, 2012, 2:46 pm

        You think he hated her? For some reason, I think she was the only person he actually cared about.

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      • avatar

        The_Yellow_Dart February 28, 2012, 3:42 pm

        Yeah – I think at some point in the book Kevin told her that he needed an “audience”…

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      • avatar

        britannia February 29, 2012, 2:29 am

        I think he left her alive simply because she was at work, not at home. Sociopaths like that often consider convenience above all else. They don’t deliberately try to work revenge into their plans… if it isn’t convenient, they don’t do it. It was my interpretation that his actions were much more based on personal satisfaction or satiation than revenge.

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    • CatsMeow

      CatsMeow February 28, 2012, 2:46 pm

      “Some men just want to watch the world burn” – I think you’re right. It’s kind of how he described the computer viruses.

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      • avatar

        britannia February 29, 2012, 2:29 am

        I thought that the collection of computer viruses were a way to make himself feel more formidable.

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    • avatar

      applescruff February 28, 2012, 3:21 pm

      That makes sense, why he would spare Eva. But why do you think he included Dana Rocco, the teacher, in his list? She saw through him too.

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      • MaterialsGirl

        MaterialsGirl February 28, 2012, 3:30 pm

        Perhaps because she wanted to improve him? Didn’t she say she was “making him her mission”? Eva didn’t try to outright change him, just to manage him.

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      • avatar

        applescruff February 28, 2012, 3:45 pm

        That makes sense. I don’t think Eva felt like she could hope for anything more from Kevin than what he was. Dana thought she could reach him. And Eva seemed resigned to her/Kevin’s fate, while Dana loved being a teacher so much she would even try to reach out to a kid like Kevin.

        It was interesting how Dana and Laura were the only two people Kevin killed outright. He obviously could have killed them all with a single arrow, maybe two. Was he sparing them, in some twisted way? Keeping Laura in particular from seeing what was coming? Or did he hate them the most and just want to make sure they were dead?

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      • avatar

        Rachel February 28, 2012, 8:01 pm

        Well that was it – she loved being a teacher. At one point Eva speculates that the reason he picked the victims he did was because they all were really passionate about something and he hated that because he had never felt it.

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  • CatsMeow

    CatsMeow February 28, 2012, 1:39 pm

    HOLY CRAP I just finished this last night. I love, love, LOVED this novel.

    I related to Eva on so many levels, even as I began to doubt her sanity (did anyone else? when she CONSISTENTLY disagreed with Franklin, I started to wonder, especially given the fact that the reader was only privy to her point of view). She gave a voice to my deepest, darkest fears about motherhood that I didn’t always have words for. And throughout, I sided with her, and even felt a certain amount of relief when she gave in and threw Kevin across the room, breaking his arm (and then feeling guilty for finding pleasure in it).

    In short, I don’t think she’s “responsible” for Thursday, aside from the fact that Kevin had half her DNA. I think she was spared because she always UNDERSTOOD Kevin on a level that no one else did. She saw him for who he really was when no one else could, and I thought on some level he respected that. Kevin was HERS, after all – he had her name, and her looks. And I think they both knew, but didn’t want to admit, that Kevin exhibited parts of Eva’s personality that she didn’t want to acknowledge. Franklin was in denial to the point that it was painfully annoying, and while Kevin could manipulate it, I don’t think he respected him for it. Part of me also thinks that Eva was spared, while the others were not, because it FORCED a relationship between the two of them. Maybe deep down, that’s all Kevin wanted, and he went about it in his own perverse way.

    I think Eva had a second baby to prove to herself that Kevin wasn’t her fault – that he was just born that way, and not a result of her lackluster parenting. And honestly, I don’t think she was a bad mother. She saw him for what he was, and dealt with him accordingly. I think that Franklin’s staunch denial of Kevin’s true nature not only kept her in the marriage (because, let’s face it, he had to be voicing what she WISHED FOR even if it wasn’t what she beleived to be true) but kept a dangerous dynamic in the family whereby Kevin could manipulate his parents and continue to get away with murder (well, uh, not murder technically until the end). Up until his dying breath, Franklin was in denial of Kevin’s true nature.

    I think the standards we as a society hold mothers to are kind of ridiculous. Eva took shit for wanting to spend time without her kid, or for having one-on-one time with her husband, or wanting to continue her career even though it involved traveling for extended periods of time…. and in the end, SHE was the scapegoat. Why? Why is it always the mother? She feared that she would lose her identity when she became a mother, and that’s exactly what happened. I don’t think it should HAVE to be that way, and I don’t think she was wrong for being reluctant to give her ENTIRE self to motherhood once he was born.

    Anyway, I ‘m probably rambling at this point. But the book gave me a TON to think about, as well as kept me on the edge of my seat. I can’t believe that I didn’t figure out that Franklin and Celia were dead until the end (it made the awkward visit to Franklin’s parents make much more sense). Was everyone else surprised too?

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    • avatar

      bethany February 28, 2012, 2:03 pm

      I thought about re-reading the book knowing that Franklin was dead to see if knowing that made much of a difference, but I only got 1 chapter in before I had to put it down. 2 readings in a month is a little much for such heavy material!

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  • avatar

    rachel February 28, 2012, 1:43 pm

    So I guessed after the second or third letter without a response that Franklin was dead, but for some reason it didn’t click that Kevin had killed him and Celia until Thursday happened and Kevin asked his mom if she didn’t want to hug Celia one more time (creepy).

    I think Kevin felt an attachment to his mother because she was the one who saw him for what he was – or at least close to it. I think more than his mother’s coldness and accusations he really hated his father’s attempts to believe that everything was A-OK. So she needed to remain alive to be witness to what he did, to see who he really is.

    I wondered at one point why she didn’t leave Franklin, but I think she felt about her relationship with Franklin the same way that Franklin felt towards the Kevin situation. She loved her husband SO much that she couldn’t help but believe that things between them could be alright again.

    By the end of the book, I felt so bad for Eva and all that she went through. People were so awful to her because of what Kevin did, and she went through the whole civil trial and everything, all the while having lost the two people she loved most.

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    • avatar

      Krissy February 28, 2012, 3:00 pm

      I figured out that they were dead when she kept bringing up the other school shootings and saying that no one paid attention to the fact that many of those kids murdered their parents as well.

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    • Betsy

      Betsy February 28, 2012, 3:15 pm

      I also figured out that Franklin was dead early in the book, mostly because she never mentioned his presence at the court proceedings or in the context of Kevin being at prison. A father like Franklin was not likely to abandon Kevin after Thursday. As soon as she had Celia, I got the awful that they were both dead because of Kevin. What I was more surprised about was the interview where he actually showed love and respect for her, and that he wanted her to keep visiting him after he was transferred to the adult prison. It made me realize that a lot of malicious things he did to Eva, were actually malicious towards other people and things that Eva loved.

      I also think that Kevin killed Franklin because he didn’t want to deal with the forgiveness that Franklin would have for him after Thursday. Kevin didn’t want to put all this work into this massacre and have Franklin put a hand on his knee and say “I know you didn’t mean this and you didn’t know what you were doing and we’ll get you the help you need.” He now gets Eva all to himself and doesn’t have to deal with Franklin pandering to the boy that he thought Kevin was.

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      • avatar

        bethany February 28, 2012, 4:34 pm

        I rember thinking it was weird that he was so MIA, but then on the back cover it mentioned something about her “Estranged Husband”, so I just assumed they were seperated/divorced… I guess being dead is a good reason to be estranged!

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      • avatar

        MissDre February 28, 2012, 6:50 pm

        Same here… I figured Franklin blamed Eva for what happened and wanted nothing to do with her. I also figured he took Celia away because of the civil proceedings. It honestly did not click til the last second that they were dead.

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      • avatar

        AnotherWendy February 28, 2012, 9:49 pm

        “I also think that Kevin killed Franklin because he didn’t want to deal with the forgiveness that Franklin would have for him after Thursday. Kevin didn’t want to put all this work into this massacre and have Franklin put a hand on his knee and say “I know you didn’t mean this and you didn’t know what you were doing and we’ll get you the help you need.”

        I hadn’t thought of it in quite this way, but I so agree with this statement!

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      • avatar

        britannia February 29, 2012, 2:31 am

        I think that is part of it, definitely. I could see also, though, that he killed Franklin and Celia because he had zero respect for them. They were gullible, in his eyes, and that probably made him a little angry – or at least like they were pathetic.

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  • avatar

    The_Yellow_Dart February 28, 2012, 1:47 pm

    I really enjoyed this one too. I wasn’t expecting to finish it, but once I got to the last third, I couldn’t put it down! I thought the prose nicely evoked Eva’s cold character, though it was a bit hard to get into at first (she’s not very sympathetic). Like the other commenters, I don’t think that Eva was responsible for Kevin’s behavior – though I read his personality as a very extreme version of hers…

    The thing that bothered me the most was that Kevin got only 7 years in prison (and also the really graphic descriptions of the rampage). I actually had nightmares about that after I finished the book…

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    • avatar

      The_Yellow_Dart February 28, 2012, 1:48 pm

      Oh, and I’m also scared to have kids now too…

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    • MaterialsGirl

      MaterialsGirl February 28, 2012, 2:03 pm

      ((shudder))… i know.. ugh

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  • avatar

    bethany February 28, 2012, 1:59 pm

    I loved this book. I read it on my honeymoon (romantic, I know), and could not put it down.

    I, too, didn’t see the deaths of Franklin and Celia coming until the VERY last second. I was reading away and it suddenly hit me- They’re both dead.

    One of the things that I still think about was if Kevin really was evil like Eva thought. I tend to lean towards Yes, he was bad from the begining. I believe that he did all those awful things on purpose, but then you also have to remember that Eva is telling the story, and we’re hearing things through her voice, so you have to wonder how much of it really was coincidental….??

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    • avatar

      applescruff February 28, 2012, 3:26 pm

      I was trying to figure out if Kevin really was “born that way” or not. But I think a big clue that it was nature more than nuture is the response from the babysitters. Remember the Irish girl at the beginning? She couldn’t handle him. Other moms ostracized him from playgroup, all from the time he was very young. So, even if Eva was responsible for the initial rejection, when Kevin was born, people go through much greater rejections and don’t become sociopaths.

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  • avatar

    Addie Pray February 28, 2012, 2:06 pm

    I gotta read this book. I’m 2 chapters in. This is me not reading your comments above.

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    • MaterialsGirl

      MaterialsGirl February 28, 2012, 2:08 pm

      DO IT AND DO NOT WHATEVER YOU DO READ THE COMMENTS. As Jilliez said, don’t ruin it for yourself by reading the wiki. Thanks, Jilliez!

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      • avatar

        Jillie Z February 28, 2012, 8:41 pm

        Yes peeps, do NOT read Wikipedia if you haven’t finished it yet!! Totally ruined the ending for me… which i admit, i didn’t quite see coming. At least not the full extent.

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  • avatar

    Turtledove February 28, 2012, 2:13 pm

    I think Eva stayed with Franklin because she loved him, but also because she feared for what would become of him if she left. She saw that something was wrong with Kevin, something that would go unchecked completely if Franklin had his way. I have to wonder what would have happened if Franklin had been able to see, even just a little bit, that something was wrong with Kevin. Would early psychological intervention have helped Kevin?

    Eva was very cold and intellectual as opposed to being emotional and I wonder if Franklin loved in the son the same things that he loved in the mother? Eva may be cold, but Kevin is ice– nearly impossible to get near, nearly impossible to love. Eva probably recognized Kevin’s shortcomings so quickly because she saw the foreshadowing of them in herself. Having to work harder at love is obviously something that Franklin excels at, whereas Eva loves only where love is easiest, hence her easy love for Franklin and for Celia.

    I think, even though Kevin was so difficult for Eva to be attached to that she did try to do her best by him. Even though her best was lackluster, to me, it was the parenting conflicts between Eva and Franklin that did Kevin the biggest disservice.

    As Cat’s Meow said above, this book really does touch on one of the hardest cornerstones of motherhood– the feeling of having to give over your entire self to motherhood. It’s something in the modern media that gets discussed endlessly– alone time, time for your marriage, what your time commitments to you kids should be, what your time commitments to work should be. I found myself wanting to carve out a small space for Eva to just breathe.

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  • avatar

    silver_dragon_girl February 28, 2012, 2:29 pm

    I haven’t entirely finished it yet, but I could probably write a whole essay on what I think about Kevin and Eva’s relationship…I think it’s very complicated. I think, however, that Eva is the only one who understands that Kevin is torturing them all on purpose, and that is why Kevin lets her live. If you think about it, everyone else just assumes that everything Kevin does is unintentional, or just normal kid shit. But Eva really understands that it’s something deeper and far more sinister. So I think, in a way, Kevin “rewards” her by letting her live…while at the same time delivering the ultimate punishment of taking away the people she truly loves.

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  • Dear Wendy

    Wendy February 28, 2012, 2:36 pm

    Did anyone read the back of the book — author interview, etc.? It was really interesting. The author sounds as cold and arrogant as Eva.

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    • avatar

      MissDre February 28, 2012, 2:39 pm

      Yes, I completely agree. Talented woman, but you’re right. Cold and arrogant. I think she knows that about herself, though. But is comfortable with who she is.

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    • avatar

      bethany February 28, 2012, 2:48 pm

      I thought the author sounded even colder and more arrogant than Eva. It was really interesting to learn about her.

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        applescruff February 28, 2012, 3:27 pm

        I totally agree.

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      Jillie Z February 28, 2012, 9:08 pm

      In the audio book they interview the author, and her voice is definitely cold and rather strident! i thought she was worse than Eva… she said that Kevin as a child was loosely based off one of her nephews – who would say that in an interview?? i loved that the author said she purposefully threw in a few inconsistencies with Eva’s story so that you would question her too – like how she’s convinced that Kevin destroyed her favorite photo, and instead Kevin had kept it as one of his prize possessions.

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  • CatsMeow

    CatsMeow February 28, 2012, 2:41 pm

    OK, question….

    Toward the end, I think when Kevin is talking to the documentarian, he mentions 9/11. I think he said it about the Columbine kids, like after they were done shooting up their school they were going to hijack a couple jets and fly into the World Trade Center. He said it in a mocking way.

    But didn’t 9/11 happen in 2001? And Eva was writing in April 2001?

    What was it supposed to mean? Am I missing something?

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      rachel February 28, 2012, 2:50 pm

      No, he wasn’t talking about 9/11. The kids who did the shooting at Columbine, when they looked through their journals and stuff after the fact there were all sorts of other big “plans” and hijacking a plane was one of them. I think the author did a really good job in researching all of this stuff for the book. Must have been some depressing research.

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        applescruff February 28, 2012, 3:28 pm

        That was going to be their “grand finale,” I guess. They also had a bunch of bombs that didn’t go off.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow February 28, 2012, 4:19 pm

        Hunh. I didn’t remember that. Did they specifically say they were going after the World Trade Center?

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    • avatar

      The_Yellow_Dart February 28, 2012, 3:48 pm

      I remember that too, and I think it was intentional that the statement occurred before 2001. Was it to connect the rash of school shootings with 9/11? Was it a comment on the inconceivability of 9/11 before 9/11? I’m not sure – but I’d be interested to hear what you think…

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      • avatar

        Elizabeth February 28, 2012, 7:02 pm

        The Columbine shooters had a similar plan in 1999. From Wiki “Journal entries reveal that the pair had an elaborate plan for a major bombing rivaling the Oklahoma City bombing. The entries contained blurbs about ways to escape to Mexico, hijacking an aircraft at Denver International Airport and crashing into a building in New York City, as well as details about the attacks. “

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  • avatar

    Painted_lady February 28, 2012, 3:08 pm

    I found myself so angry at Franklin and at society throughout the book, from maybe the third letter, and that kept me reading. The expectations we have of women who choose to become mothers in society is practically criminal: here’s this tiny person that you must be thrilled about every single second of every single day, no matter how difficult, no matter who else you are as a person, no matter how much that child damages and undermines every other relationship you have, no matter what else you would like to do in future, this person must be your NUMBER ONE PRIORITY ALWAYS AND FOREVER. I go on facebook now that the vast majority of my friends are having kids, and it stuns me how many people’s profile pics are their child. It says so many things about the way society views parenting, but more specifically, mothering. I’m not saying that making that choice is necessarily wrong (although, and Eva mentions this, what sense of other people’s needs do these kids have when Mom’s primary goal is to spend every waking minute she possibly can with them, no matter her other desires?), but I know so many new moms who secretly struggle with maintaining their identity while still publicly declaring that nothing else in life could possibly hold a candle to being a mother. It’s not okay to put that much pressure on our fellow humans.

    I don’t think for a second that she was responsible for Thursday – I’ve seen, and I’m sure other readers have also seen, that kids who grow up in the same households can turn into completely different people. My brother was a difficult baby from the beginning. He was never happy, he cried constantly (once when he was a few months old he screamed so hard that he knocked himself out), as soon as he was old enough to be aware, he got pleasure in making people angry or upset, and there was no way to teach him otherwise. I think perhaps leaving Franklin and giving him custody as a younger child might have woken Franklin up and gotten him some help or at least showed him that if you treat people the way he treated his mother, you can and will lose them. I think he spared her because it was the surest way to punish her for having him and for making him love her, and also, to have her all to himself.

    I spent a lot of the book wondering why Eva didn’t just leave, and I think it was Franklin’s outright denial of all of Kevin’s issues, basically calling her delusional, that kept her there. She simultaneously wondered deep down if he was right, but she also knew he wasn’t and kept trying to prove to him she wasn’t crazy. It’s like watching my parents tussle with my brother – he just does NOT get that he can’t flake out or throw a tantrum and expect people to allow over and over, and he also can’t dodge adult responsibilities and always expect to be bailed out. My mom has even said she keeps fooling herself into thinking if she just says the right thing, the light will come on and he’ll turn into a normal human. I think when someone denies basic reality, the need to make them see reason is too great to give up that fight, and so Eva stays, hoping eventually all the nastiness surrounding Kevin will click for Franklin, and they will go back to loving each other.

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  • Jess

    Jess of CGW February 28, 2012, 3:09 pm

    I absolutely loved this book and have been dying to talk about it. Wendy, thanks SO much for picking it.

    * I have made a ghoulish hobby of learning about psychopathy and sociopathy —conditions that I believe are largely genetic and not environmental. They are not all killers but they all lack a conscience and empathy (Ted Bundy, Casey Anthony, and heck, John Edwards are some great examples). KEVIN fits the syndrome to a tee. Even the late potty-training fits squarely into the childhood tendencies of a budding psychopath. From that point of view, it was a fascinating and seemingly well-informed look at the early life of a monster (aka: How does one become evil?).

    * So yes, I think Kevin is evil and no, I don’t think it is Eva’s fault. But I see it more as cruel twist of fate. Almost the way you fear something so greatly that it comes true.

    * I think without Celia, we couldn’t have this book and Eva would not be a whole person. Because of Celia, Eva was able to better understand Kevin –for what he really was. And I think letting go some of the guilt and blame, allowed her to be a better mother to Kevin. Some of you won’t agree with that, but that’s my take.

    * What struck me MOST in this book was the beautiful and heart-wrenching description of how a deeply loving marriage can slowly and painfully disintegrate –even while the love remains. This idea that love is not enough –is bone chilling. You could see, page by page, how the threads of the marriage were unwinding and how Eva mourned each scrap of the loss. The book after all, are letters to Franklin. The story, is a love story at it’s base.

    * She stayed with Franklin because I think she loved Franklin above all else –even as they grew apart. She “loved” Kevin out of obligation. She loved Celia out of motherly devotion and compassion. But she loved Franklin freely, effortlessly, and instinctively.

    * As tragic as their ending was, something that occurred to me in this book is that it is indeed possible to love someone, in the deep romantic sense, for your entire life. Loving someone in this way does not, tragically, mean that you are guaranteed to stay with them. But the idea that you CAN love someone without it turning into obligation, boredom, or routine, is incredible and awe-inspiring.

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    • Heather

      Heather February 28, 2012, 8:36 pm

      This was also a subject of the novel that really resonated with me-Franklin and Eva’s love. They were truly opposites, but still loved each other so much. However, the part when Eva writes to Franklin something to the effect of “for me, life with just you and without kids was good enough, but you didn’t feel the same way and that hurt” really struck me. Not that Franklin did wrong by loving Kevin, but that he ENTIRELY let go of his marriage and dedication to Eva to protect a person who never loved him and would ultimately kill him is heartbreaking.

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      • Jess

        Jess of CGW February 29, 2012, 10:02 am

        Heather, so true.

        Yes, I think you’re reminding me too that one thing I did love about the writing (cold as the protagonist could be at times) was how wince-inducingly RAW and HONEST she was about things. At times I felt that she wasn’t necessarily colder than most people, but just more honest with herself about her unkind and unpleasant emotions. A person who was painfully self-aware.

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    applescruff February 28, 2012, 3:35 pm

    Any thoughts on why Shriver chose to set Kevin’s rampage just a couple weeks before Columbine? I thought it made sense not to have “Thursday” come after “Tuesday,” because once there was a “generic” for a school shooting, I suspect Kevin would have found it passe. But why a mere 12 days before?

    I remember when this book came out and I read the review in the Denver Post. There was a comment comparing Eva to Susan Klebold – who still lives in the area. The reviewer was talking about the grocery store scene, and how with Eva’s unique last name she can never be anonymous again.

    I’ve avoided this book for years because as someone from Littleton, it seemed too close to home. I’m a psychologist, and from that perspective the book was fascinating – to watch a young sociopath from birth. But I found it deeply, deeply disturbing.

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      bethany February 28, 2012, 4:40 pm

      I can’t imagine what it must be like to be the parent/sibling/grandparent of someone like Dylan Kebold…

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        Elizabeth February 28, 2012, 7:08 pm

        This was a big discussion in my book group which also read WNTTAK. All of us are moms of 6th graders and we had heavy discussion on what it would be like to be Eva, a friend of Eva’s, or a parent in the community. Could you still love your child? Could you not love your child? Could you still be a friend to Eva? The part when the other parent broke her eggs in the supermarket was brilliant and chilling.

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        britannia February 29, 2012, 2:34 am

        The eggs bit was awful. For me personally, I can’t imagine being so disconnected from compassion that I would blame the mother. It’s not like Eva was prancing around like nothing happened. In the movie, at least, it came across very strongly that she was being eaten by the detachment that prolonged despair brings. Why continue to torture someone who’s going through that? She’s no Casey Anthony.

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      AnotherWendy February 28, 2012, 11:07 pm

      Ok, my thought on why it was set so close to Columbine is kind of strange but this is it. I think it was the author’s way of not allowing Kevin any “glory” for his crime. Sort of like a statement of: Ha! You think your act was so notorious, yet you were totally upstaged only 12 days later and nobody cares about you anymore.

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  • Betsy

    Betsy February 28, 2012, 3:46 pm

    I felt that the transition from their happy marriage to their unhappy parenthood was a bit unorganic. It seemed like from the moment Eva got pregnant the tone of Franklin’s dialogue condescending. Perhaps that was the author’s intention, to make it seem as though Eva herself had started to unravel?

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    • MaterialsGirl

      MaterialsGirl February 28, 2012, 3:55 pm

      Possibly, or to emphasize the fact that when you’re pregnant or a mother, you somehow become this completely different person who now has transitioned to a role of total self sacrifice. He was astounded that she try to do anything for herself, or that she do anything like drink a class of wine or dance around the room (all completely harmless.. well maybe not the second glass of wine). He was treating her like most of our culture treats pregnant women. How dare she etc etc etc!

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      • Betsy

        Betsy February 28, 2012, 4:21 pm

        Of course! Franklin being the All-American metaphor that he is… 🙂

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    • Jess

      Jess of CGW February 28, 2012, 4:06 pm

      Funny Betsy because I had the complete opposite read of it (see my comment above). I don’t think anyone is right but it’s interesting how everyone read different things into the story –most likely because of how we’re able (or unable) to relate the characters to our own lives.

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    jlyfsh February 28, 2012, 4:29 pm

    I had a hard time getting in to the book and based on someone’s suggestion in another thread read the last chapter first. I had an idea that Franklin and Celia were dead from the bit I did read, just from the tone of her letters.

    Kevin’s weapon choice really got to me, I think it made it more brutal than other attacks. And the description like others said made me squirm. It was hard to read that part.

    I felt like Eva was written in a way that made us want to not like her. And the whole book was an attempt by her to make us see that she was a person too and that she did in her own way try her best. I don’t think Thursday was entirely her fault. Did she make mistakes, sure. But, lots of parents make mistakes and their children don’t turn out to be mass murderers.

    I think she stayed with Franklin because one she loved him and two she wanted to make sure she wasn’t crazy. She wanted to be there when Kevin finally screwed up enough for Franklin to admit that there was something wrong. And poor Celia was in the middle of that. For some reason as strong as Eva’s character was she could never truly stand up to Franklin. I think because she did love him so much and was afraid of losing him.

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  • Jess

    Jess of CGW February 28, 2012, 4:30 pm

    Another compelling question to answer about this book is:

    How WOULD Franklin have been affected by Thursday if he’d lived?

    And, how would their marriage been affected? Would Thursday have been the thing that finally broke through Franklin’s delusions about Kevin? Would he have finally recognized and admitted to his son’s depravity and come to see Eva’s point of view at last? Or would it have pushed them further apart? (it’s easy to imagine a trial where the “good parent” and “bad parent” are played out in front of the jury)

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      bethany February 28, 2012, 4:38 pm

      If Franklin had lived I think he would have been one of those parents who blamed it all on bullying/society/tv/music/whatever. I think he was too deep in denial to really see that his child was capable of such a thing just becasue he was an evil child. Also, admitting that he was evil would have affirmed everything Eva had been saying from the begining (things he refused to believe). If he had lived Thursday would have surely ripped apart their marriage.

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    Sue Jones February 28, 2012, 6:09 pm

    OK, I am NOT reading this book. Just the comments make my hair stand on end. I did finally (a month late) read The Marriage Plot this past weekend. It (Marriage Plot) was relevant to me personally since I graduated college in 1983 so the time period and the age of the characters is close to me personally. I remember when nobody had answering machines and if you were waiting for someone to call you would (or could) wait by the phone all day long…. glad we don’t do that anymore…

    Also my stepson has severe bipolar disorder and back in my 20’s I dated a guy on and off who I am pretty sure had undiagnosed bipolar disorder ( manic depression) so I am more than a little familiar with the roller coaster of being around someone with this disease. Though it was rougher with my BF since I did not know what was going on, but I guess he prepared me to deal with my stepson and put up those strong healthy boundaries and live my life regardless of how he is doing. It helps that my stepson does not live with us….

    I also think that as Madeline matures she will eventually end up with someone like Mitchell. Leonard is who so many of us date in our 20’s until we learn what to look for in a reliable and stable mate.

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  • MELH

    MELH February 28, 2012, 8:54 pm

    I just finished. Of course, I let myself skim Wendy’s entry today, and I spoiled the end for myself. I honestly didn’t see that coming. I assumed they were divorced and she had been refused custody for some reason. Although I did think it was weird she went to see his parents alone if this was the case.
    I had a hard time getting into the reading, but I found the underlying story fascinating. Especially yesterday, when I got online and saw news of a school shooting in Northern Ohio, only a few hours from where I live. It’s heartbreaking of course, and it made me kind of look at it in a different sense.
    I don’t think it was Eva’s fault. She was not a particularly warm or loving mother, but I don’t think she caused her son to this in any way. Although I have to say I was really disturbed by the book, and I pray I never feel that way about my own child.

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    Jillie Z February 28, 2012, 8:59 pm

    i thought this book was an incredible read, and i got really drawn into the family’s relationship because i identified a lot with Eva. She’s not a likable character on many levels, and admits her not so admirable qualities, but she’s a loving person and wants to enjoy her family and life. I felt bad for her, that her marriage was the most important thing to her and it was ruined by having a child, which is supposed to add to your family and make it better.

    The author completely drew me in with wondering whether Eva was crazy, or if Kevin truly was evil, and with each anecdote, it made the mother/son relationship so hard to figure out. What would it be like to be a little boy who knows his mother doesn’t love him? What would it be like to try to love a son who potentially blinded his innocent little sister?

    A lot of reviewers noted the pretentious writing and vocab, but i think that just emphasizes the type of person Eva was, and she wrote the way she wanted to because she knew nobody was actually ever going to read the letters.

    I listened to the audio book and actually cried during on of the last scenes, when Kevin sort of admits that he may have made a mistake. The author blends that with Kevin making a coffin for the eyeball, which was one of the creepiest (but sort of sweet?) gestures i’ve ever read in a book. I just kept wondering why Eva would even visit him… why not just give up, particularly after he had killed the people she loved most in the world, and had effectively ended her career. And i think her demonstration of unconditional motherhood, if not love, was a great part of the book.

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    • avatar

      Jiggs February 28, 2012, 11:09 pm

      My thoughts are that Eva clung to Kevin because he was literally all she had left in the world. After Thursday she has no husband, no daughter, no friends and no job. Kevin is probably the only person she has left to talk to, even if she does so out of duty rather than love.

      So it seems Kevin got what he wanted in the end – his mother’s undivided attention.

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  • avatar

    AnotherWendy February 28, 2012, 10:59 pm

    Oh, this book! Loved it and it terrified me and disturbed me!

    I saw Eva as SO weak! All these things are happening around her and she doesn’t ACT on any of it. She just observes, is horrified, and retreats. She has all these fears about Kevin, which her husband dismisses, and instead of seeking answers either through her own research or a counselor for herself, or taking Kevin to see someone, or involving a school psychologist or social worker, she just has the fears and carries on. She observes her marriage falling apart and she doesn’t take any action to either save it or end it, she just lets it limp along. She hates giving up travel, and instead of finding a way to still do some while raising her kids, she just stops traveling. She sees her son masturbating at 14 with the door open on purpose, and she doesn’t go talk to a mental health professional about the behavior or at the least research on her own how to handle it and what it might mean?! No, she’s horrified and retreats from confronting him or the behavior. I wondered if it went back to just having to acccept that her mother never left the house. How as a kid she was just supposed to accept that about her mom.

    For me, the ultimate expression of her failure to act were in two scenes that made me just no longer have any sympathy for her:
    She is convinced Kevin is responsible for blinding Celia and she doesn’t pursue that. WTF?! Question Celia, reassure her that if Kevin has threatened her, she will protect her but she needs to tell the truth. Or get Celia to a counselor and see if they can get it out of her. Or go to a counselor and say “I really believe my son blinded my daughter and I don’t know what to do next”, call the freakin police and report a crime, make an anonymous call to child protective services, do SOMETHING, but don’t ignore your gut feeling over something so serious!!

    Second, when Kevin has Celia’s glass eye in the prison and she doesn’t take it away from him! Grab it, cause a scene and explain to the guard what he has in his pocket. Again, don’t just be horrified and let it go!

    I don’t think she’s responsible for Kevin’s character and I don’t know if she could have done anything to prevent Thursday. But she should have done something to address what she beleived about him. Franklin stuck his head in the sand about anything negative with Kevin and did nothing. Eva KNEW something wasn’t right about Kevin and did nothing.

    As for Kevin, I believe it was all an act at the end, just like how his interactions with his dad all those years was an act. Kevin is afraid of prison, afraid of what will happen when he gets out. So he gives Eva what she needs from him in order to secure continued visits to break up the monotony and a place to land when he’s out, and to continue to be his audience. She wanted to feel he needed her, so he gave that to her. I don’t beleive he suddenly bonded with her after all those years of not bonding to anyone at all.

    And instead of picking herself up and building a new life for herself, she retreats, and accepts working at a job that is beneath her capabilities, living in an apt. she hates, and spending the next few years visiting in prision her child that she never felt connected to at all, who brutally murdered her husband and daughter. And when he gets out, letting this monster move in with her.

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      Minnie February 29, 2012, 2:14 pm

      I totally agree with you! I’m glad someone else sees things the way I did. I felt like she was SO irresponsible and it made me angry. Especially when she decided to have Celia when she knew the child she would be bringing into the world would have a sociopath brother. I don’t think Thursday was her fault, I don’t think she failed Kevin. I think she failed Celia as a mother. It was her duty to protect Celia and she was totally irresponsible. I know she thought there was a chance she could be wrong about Kevin, but you do not take a chance like that with your child (especially after the eye incident!!!)

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    AnotherWendy February 28, 2012, 11:30 pm

    Regarding comments about women who are expected by society to give up all aspects of their life and their marriage to the devotion of raising their kids, I just don’t see that impacting most of the people I know who are moms, myself included. I read about these people and I don’t doubt they exist beccause I have run into them before. But the mothers I know continue to have careers when they are in positions to be able to choose not to work but actually want to work, they look forward to girls nights out/bookclub meetings/exercise classes as times they can have to themselves or just be kid-free for awhile, they admit being in a house all day with a kid can drive you insane somedays and that infants don’t give you a whole lot of feedback for all the effort you’re putting in. And that coming home to a teenager’s snarky attitude sucks alot of the time! And they all love their kids. They are just very realistic about what mothering is and isn’t and they just go quietly about their business. They don’t post on Facebook “oh I love retaining my sense of self in motherhood”, they just do it. Those that want to judge others for not giving 100% of themselves to motherhood tend to be the ones who make comments like my SIL once did: “Oh, I can watch Suzy for you if you feel you need some time to yourself because I never feel that way, so I’m always available to my kids and Suzy is welcome to join us.” That disturbs me as much now thinking about it as it did hearing it almost 20 years ago!!

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  • katie

    katie February 29, 2012, 12:30 am

    so, of course, my library emails me TODAY that we need to talk about kevin is ready for me to pick up!! grrr….

    im still going to read it, and i will come back to this and read all of your very insightful comments.

    stupid library.

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  • avatar

    kittyk February 29, 2012, 9:40 pm

    Oh Wendy! I have been anxiously awaiting the discussion of this for a week and a half, and of course it gets posted during the 2 busiest days I can ever remember at work. Go figure. And honestly I’m too tired to even post anything intelligent at this point. 🙂 Rant over!

    I am so glad this book was picked. I was really intrigued by the premise but had no idea how I would feel about it. At first I was disappointed in the letter style of the book, and like so many others had a hard time really relating to Eva. But once I got over that I found I related to her too much, that this book spoke to a lot of my own fears about and indifference towards motherhood. I kept thinking of you, Wendy, and how difficult a read this must have been while you were going through your own emotional struggles with a new baby.

    This book stuck with me more than any book I’ve read recently, I was haunted by it for days after I finished. Once Celia was introduced, I couldn’t put it down, because her birth confirmed my fears that Kevin not only killed Franklin, but obviously Celia as well. The description of the planning, the letters, the students and teacher chosen- and why, and the shooting themselves was haunting. Even though his archery hobby (his only real interest) was mentioned throughout the book, I really didn’t think he would go that route in the killings. It almost seemed too personal for such a detached person. I can’t get the image of Celia stuck to the archery target out of my head.

    Ok, I seriously can’t focus. Maybe I’ll get around to reading the comments and discussing more later.

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    Jodie Pruitt June 3, 2012, 3:47 pm

    Re: “We Need to Talk About Kevin”
    I haven’t read the book, but I watched the movie last night. Reading these comments has helped me understand the movie a bit better. But I still have this one question–what is this trial that Eva went through where she lost her house etc. What judge/jury could possibly find against a mother of a monster like Kevin. This just seems too far fetched. And my husband says there’s no way Kevin could have smuggled that eye into prison. They take all your stuff when you get locked up. We would both like to know about this civil trial event, however. Thanks to anyone who can explain it.

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    Ericka M. July 13, 2012, 4:15 am

    I have to be honest. I didn’t enjoy it as much as my friends told me I would do…or at all. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have an opinion about it, right?

    I honestly believe he felt something for his mother. Maybe not love, but respect for seeing him as he really is. I came here looking for answers to why he killed all of those people, including his dad and sister. I wanted to see everyone’s point of view, and it interests me how many of us have pretty similar ideas. I think we can solve the puzzle with everyone’s opinion, but I still feel unease…he himself thought he knew, but in the end, did those deaths even have a reason? Maybe not logical, but for his own reasons?

    I bet he was just bored. Lol

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    cleo August 3, 2012, 4:49 pm

    Loved loved LOVED the book! Enjoyed the perspective of a mother of a “psychopath” and it gave me some new insight. But did anyone else notice mistakes in the dates? Example, most of the book states that it happened April 8,1999, three days before Kevin’s 18th birthday and 12 days before Columbine. But on page 61, it says “a mere ten days after a certain Thursday, eighteen-year-old Eric Harris and seventeen-year old Dylan Klebold planted bombs…” referring to the Columbine incident. Later, Shriver also says the incident is two days before his 18th birthday. Not important at all in the bigger picture, but this reader noticed. Great read though!

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