This 2003 novel is about a fictitous school shooting written from the perspective of Eva, the killer’s mother. Yes, painful subject matter, I know. It is also in theaters as an Indie movie.
Written as a series of letters to her estranged husband, Franklin, it takes Eva about 350 pages to lead up to the school shooting which she simply refers to as Thursday, the day of the week it occured.
The dynamics of this family are extremely interesting. Eva is a strong and witty woman who has a happy marriage and career and really never feels the pull toward motherhood. She is clever and honest about these feelings. Ultimately she and Franklin take the leap into parenthood and from the first, Eva does not feel the bond with her son, Kevin. In fact she begins to believe that her son was born without feelings. Over and over she catches Kevin purposely doing bad things without any remorse. He doesn’t appear to bond with anyone or anything: a classic definition of a sociopath. Franklin, always the optimist father is defensive of him and it creates a huge rift in their marriage. Any parent going through a difficult spell with a child can relate to the events and the conversations that take place between husband and wife.
Throughout the novel the question the reader keeps asking themselves is this: Can a child just be born bad? Or can a very strong set of parents turn a “naturally bad” kid around? So who is at fault? Kevin the psychopath? Or Eva, the bad mother, who never really wanted him?
One of my favorite lines from the book occurs in a scene after Eva and Kevin have a major clashing of wills when he is 6 years old and still wearing a diaper. In frustration, she doles out a major punishment and is explaining this to her husband: “I beg you to understand just how hard I’d been trying to be a good mother. But trying to be a good mother may be as distant from being a good mother as trying to have a good time is from truly having one.”
Like a good car crash, this book might not be for everybody. You may start it but not be able to read the whole thing, look away if you will because it does get a little hard to take. But there is a surprise ending that is worth the wait. And frankly, we ALL may need to talk about Kevin.