Sunday, December 18, 2011

Book Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

It's been a very long time since I've been able to curl up all afternoon for some uninterrupted reading time. It happened today. There's a book I started on October 17th. I just now finished it. It's pretty rare that I'm working through a book for more than two weeks, so two months is just shocking.

The book, We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, has been on bestseller lists for years. I'm not exaggerating, either: go to a Barnes & Noble and you'll always find it either on the "bestseller" table or the "recommended reading" table. Ever since it was published in 2003, I've been waltzing up, reading the back cover, muttering "someday", putting it back, and walking off. I picked up this copy of it at the local bookstore's going-out-of-business sale back in August (click here for the post).

When you read this Goodreads summary, you'll understand why I was so eager to dive in:

Eva never really wanted to be a mother - and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin's horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklin. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.  

As mentioned, I started this novel back in October. It was really slow. Chapters are usually around 20 pages long. By the time I would get to the end of the chapter, I felt as though I had accomplished such a challenging feat that I would just put the novel down. Normally, at this slow of a pace, i would have vetoed this novel and started on the next somewhere around page 100. The way this novel is written is very challenging. The whole novel is letters from Eva to her estranged husband, Franklin. There's no interaction or excitement. Eva is simply telling a story. The lack of engagement with the reader makes this an extremely challenging novel. I'm not sure what kept me reading, but I'm certainly glad I continued. It's the last 100 pages of this 400 page book where it really starts to get interesting. I did not predict the twists and turns until right up when they were happening. The suspense literally had my heart racing. Amazing!

Although I am rating this with 3/5 stars due to the completely torturous boredom of the reader for three-quarters of the book, I highly recommend everyone pick this novel up--soon!

Here are my numbers:

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Rating: 3/5
Pages: 400
2011 Reading Goal: 12,473/12,500 (really?!?!? 27 pages short?!?!? really?!?!)

I'm so close to meeting my reading goal for 2011! At the bottom of my blog is a poll for my 2012 reading goal. Be sure to cast your vote by December 24th!

Happy reading and Happy Holidays! :)

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