Runners Who Read

Who knew? A bunch of runners who enjoy reading and discussing what they read.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Looks like we need to talk about Kevin ...

... because We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver was the winner for the 4th Quarter 2005 Reader's Choice by the hair of a wart on the end of a nose. We'll read it this quarter and e-discuss here; please post any impressions you have with the usual SPOILERS alert.

Thanks to all who nominated and voted!


Blogger Michele said...

Spoiler Alert ---- Spoiler Alert

I read this book at the end of the summer, and I loved it. It is a bit difficult to get into (my husband thought that the narrator was wordy, but then again he is quite the engineer and writes very direct and to the point - this is more streamof consciousness.

I cannot wait to see what you all think of the ending. I was not ready for it at all. Enjoy!!!!!

12:19 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Kinda Spoiler Alert but not really.....

I read We Need to Talk About Kevin, and found it a very compelling story. I think we are going to have lots to talk about as a group as we read this book.

For those who like the book, you might be interested in Doris Lessing's "The Fifth Child" since it provides a much different "take" on a similar story.

8:11 AM  
Blogger Len said...

More kinda spoiler alert.

I'm going into this book with much doubt. I'm an avid reader of True Crime novels. So I'm not all that keen on the thought of a fictional story to try and explain how kids end up like they did in Columbine. And in doing a little reasearch, she's admitted she didn't do any actual interviews of the families in similar situations. She just did "lots of online research" and the rest came from "making it up" - those are her quotes.

I really prefer stories and actual accounts of where people come from in real life, to try and understand what may have led them to the actions they took. So, I am indeed will be opening to page 1 with a negative bias.....but, I'll give it at try.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

Len - Since I know you didn't like the last pick, I am sorry to hear that you are already skeptical about this one. I also like True Crime stuff, when it is written well, but I really found this book to be entirely different than true crime. Less a recitation of the facts and circumstances, and more a story of a mother and a family that are dealing with some pretty difficult issues with their child. Kinda like a Barbara Walters interview as opposed to a Frontline special.

What I found interesting is the perspective of the story - told completely through the mother's eyes,and I often found myself questionning the veracity of the narrator. In many ways, I think that the book speaks as much to the expectations and conflicts we all feel as the traditional parental roles have changed in the past 20 years.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Len said...

Pfo -

You're absloutely right. But it is all about reader relevance. I stand by what I said (if you take the view of the book as an explantion of WHY people make such decisions). When you read the book from the perspective you've outlined - I'm sure it's a fabulous read. But being a single guy with no kids, its just not the way I read a book. If that makes any sense.

I will say, however, that you are spot on with the point of view being very interesting. This is the main reason I do look forward to reading this book. I have step-cousin who was jailed several years ago for a double murder of a teenage girl and her father. Guilty as charged - no doubt about it. Now, I haven't kept in touch with that side of the family for nearly a decade. But I grew up knowing that kid and I look back and it doesn't surprise me where he ended (not that I knew he'd actually kill 2 people). But given his temper and rage as a kid, mostly unchecked by his parents, I can see it. I'd love to have seen how his parents viewed him growing up in their own words. Everything, I'm sure, through a rose-colored lens. We often hear the family members of such offenders being interview on TV wondering how they can possibly so supportive of such "monsters".

So, I didn't mean to sound so negative in my last comments about this book. True - its probably not a book I'd have picked out on my own at the bookstore, but I'll see how it turns out.

8:55 AM  
Blogger bct said...

Yeow. I finished the book last night with mixed emotions, but mostly relief. Primarily relief to get away from the relentless negativity and her obsessive fault-finding. Granted, talking about what was wrong from day one might answer the big Why question, but her barrage of constant criticism of everything in her environment, every day of her life, became almost unbearable.
A more specific relief was that, after describing Kevin's development in terms that sounds much like Asperger's syndrome, she never identified it as such. I cringe every time a famous criminal like the Unabomber is labeled with Asperger's. The most recent case in the media was Robert Durst, the real estate zillionaire who "accidentally" killed and then dismembered an aquaintance. His lawyer used Asperger's as a defense, even though Durst had never actually been diagnosed with it. (Interestingly, this attorney, Dick DeGuerin, is now representing Tom Delay.)

My book jacket says the author (and despite the name, Lionel is a woman) lives in London and New York. So my question, not a spoiler because it resonates throughout the whole book, is: does Lionel Shriver really hate America and everything about it?

11:36 AM  
Blogger Michele said...

Hmmm, maybe the thought of America and American values or value system? That is an interesting perspective.

I read it from the perspective of Paula as a Mom with kids - I didn't like her negativity nor the fact that she took the guilt and blame rather nonchalantly, but it showed the pressure we often feel as parents.

I must say though that I did not expect the ending at all.

2:31 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Hm - I hadn't thought of the anti-American bent, but I definitely asked myself as I was reading the loathsome narrator "Is the author truly as misogynistic as he/she seems?" Seldom have I read a book with a less sympathetic narrator, and at times I found it so over-the-top that I wondered whether it was just some fancy literary devise that I was too stupid to pick up on.

As for the ending, I have to confess that I found it a bit contrived, and when combined with the loathsome narrator, it seemed to me to smack of Ophrah-like sensationalism.

In coarse terms, I think that this is the kind of story that would make Bill Bennet or Pat Robertson cream their pants (sorry, but I've always wanted to use that phrase) because it featured a "modern" women who acts in a selfish, self-aggrandizing and incredibly shallow way. What the book seems to do is to say that this woman gets what she deserves, and to imply (by the fact that the narrator is a stereotypical "modern women") that this is the road our society is on - to well-deserved death and destruction.

Perhaps a bit of hyperbole )ok more than a bit), but it does seem to me a cautionary tale of women's lib gone awry.

7:12 PM  
Blogger bct said...

Actually, Michele, I don't think she really SHOULD take on much guilt or blame, except for not taking Kevin to a counselor years before. She didn't make him the person he was. When my kids were younger I took to heart Bruno Bettelheim's (yeah, I know a lot of his work has been discredited somewhat...) book "A Good Enough Parent," and she seems like a perfect example of a good enough parent. Bettelheim says that all a child needs is one good influence in his/her life, one parent or grandparent or kindly neighbor, and Kevin certainly had a loving dad.

1:38 PM  
Blogger david said...

I am finally getting to this book, as I've had airplane time recently. Sorry to be so late, and I haven't even finished it yet.

In part, I am having a hard time reading it because we just received a new year's letter from friends whose story is eerily parallel (though far less extreme). They are separating after 20+ years married. He is a TV/film associate producer (similar often to a location scout) and she used to run an academic travel service. They adopted two children from overseas: one has severe developmental delays and so is a child in a man's body. The other was removed from their home for a year recently, because she had become so violent (she is a teen). So, I can't help visualizing the characters far more than I usually would, and far more personally.

Did anyone else feel a sense of "John Irving" in this book, only to the extent that awful or ironic things happen with very little presaging? In a big picture way, I think I see where things are going, but small details are delivered like a punch.

1:49 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home