Likely Stories - We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
This week, avid reader and daughter in law of Jim McKeown, Ashley McKeown, brings to her Likely Stories debut, Lionel Shriver's 2003 novel 'We Need to Talk about Kevin."
Born in the south, North Carolina exactly. Ms Lionel Shriver has been an author who shines a guiding light into the proclivities of the common human. And while she chooses to live her life in the UK she has an insanely realistic grasp of the American way of doing things. Her beautiful novel We Need to Talk About Kevin has been around for many years. In fact it was made into a movie starring Tilda Swinton.
I wanted to start my time on likely stories with a familiar book. A book that I go back to year after year. After Sandy Hook, after Uvalde, I came to the conclusion, that yes we need to talk. This country is on fire, and violence is so ridiculously prevalent. And Ms. Shriver does a fine job at honing in on it, and giving it back to us a society. Kevin, is the story of a a highly successful women who finds love a bit later in life. The choice to have a child is terrifying to her. But she chooses to embark on that journey despite her hesitancy.
From the first moment our Kevin is born, the protagonist, Eva, realizes something is not quite right. He is not the cuddly baby that one expects. He is fussy, colicky, and Eva doesn't quite know how to manage him. Eva doubts herself every day. She goes to mother and me classes only to leave feeling lost.
After a few years with Kevin, she so ardently doubts herself, that she conspicuously tries and manages to get pregnant again. It is her sure fire way to prove that kevin is faulty, and she can succeed in child rearing. Celia is her saving grace, an obedient and loving girl. In a series of letters written to her estranged husband, she opens up about her doubts and fears in a way that she truly couldn't when they were together.
Is the protagonist manipulative at times? Absolutely. Do you find yourself angry with her and sad for Kevin, well you do. But never have I read a novel that created such a slow burn to a truly catastrophic finale. The last letter written, I truly believes sums up everything Eva was holding in. She poignantly pens these words, "It's possible I'm asking the wrong question. The truth is if I decided I was innocent, or I decided I was guilty, what difference would it make? If I arrived at the right answer would you come home?"
He can't come home for many reasons. But the absolute
vulnerability lies in that there will never be an answer for Eva nor for Kevin. The choices that needed to be made weren't, they were avoided, they were left behind
We need to talk about Kevin shines a light on the tenous relationship between a mother and a son. She does not hold back on the painful realities of marriage. And we as an audience find ourselves cringing at his behavior. And as a mom i find her behavior horrific, but it makes sense. He's not well and a mother knows.
We need to talk about Kevin is a love letter, to a soul mate while also being a tragic tale of mother and child. We need to talk about Kevin, is a warning to us all that things are never as they seem. And that we might all just be a brief moment away from an incredible act of violence.