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A Guide to the End of the World. Reflection on a Firestarter event. How to thrive not just survive at university. I don't buy into any interpretations that Kevin's psychopathic nature was something he was born with - it seemed pretty obvious to me that his mother fucked him up from day one.
Eva was unlikable, Kevin was unlikable and Franklin's blind defense of his son despite the contradicting evidence was just plain annoying. There was nothing to like here. View all 86 comments. Jun 26, Courtney Stanton rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: The pull-quote on the cover of the edition I read suggests that it's impossible to put this book down. That's almost entirely false. Out of the book's pages, the first were kind of like pulling teeth.
The last pages, however, were actually and physically impossible to look away from, and the brisk pace of the climax, after so. This book is a series of letters irritating written from a travel-writer wife unsympathetic and irritating to her separated husband tiresome and, given 20 seconds and a familiarity with Western literature, leading up to an entirely transparent "twist".
These letters start out being about her day-to-day life and a mediation on their slowly decimated marriage something I really can't relate to , but soon they become All About Kevin. Kevin being their oldest kid, their son, and who recently in shot up a bunch of his fellow high-schoolers.
It's a post-Columbine book set in pre America, and it's freakishly refreshing to read an entire novel about a national tragedy that neither mentions nor cares about terrorists, threat levels, Iraq, or What's Wrong With America? Actually, it's vaguely framed around the Florida debacle in the presidential elections, but that event is used to throw into relief how little political issues matter when your family has been destroyed. For the most part, the narrator Eva talks about Kevin, why she decided to have him, what it was like to raise him, and examine the ways in which she failed as a mother and a wife.
I mean, she is a bad mom. Not beating-the-kids bad, but neglectful, cold, self-centered And so in a way, she ends up raising a child who, in a bid for her affection, will take everything else away from her. It's both sick and touching, and a fascinating examination of how we're supposed to move on from tragedy, how life continues no matter how much you wish it didn't.
Kevin himself is perfectly written - both sympathetic and absolutely monstrous. By the time he's 14 and terrorizing his mother behind his father's back, I found myself completely unsurprised by everything as it unfolded. Of course he ended up killing 11 people. Of course he doesn't regret it. I'm not sure at what point, if any, decent parenting could have saved him, and I like that Lionel Shriver managed to write a lengthy book without answering, or even addressing, that question.
What struck me as the most disturbing thing, in the long run - and what's stuck with me most - is that the only thing that seems to scare the kid, and the only thing that seems to at least begin to make him snap out of his narcissistic power trip, is his impending transfer from juvie to the gen pop of a federal prison.
The book never gets into it, but I found it deeply upsetting that the prison system is so horrible, mass murderers are scared of it. I kind of felt as if we're supposed to be happy that Kevin's actually scared, but I mostly was just creeped out that the system itself had managed to create something even worse than Kevin. View all 26 comments. Sep 11, Jennifer aka EM rated it really liked it Recommends it for: This book is just devastating I've just finished it, and had a little cry on the balcony in the bright sunshine, thinking about my mom and motherhood and blame, self-recrimination, guilt and remorse and parental love and the painfully ambiguous, sometimes tortured complexity of it all.
And that is underselling it. Suffice for now to say, you might not enjoy this if: This novel should, I hope, blast through any of those preconceptions--some of which, at some times in my life, I've believed. Shriver turns all of this on its ear, and twists some literary and plot conventions to her own purposes at the same time. She is steadfast and clear-eyed in her determination to dismantle the 'blame the parents' catechism that passes for analysis and explanation of that which is inexplicable, in this case a school shooting and the lives, events and choices that led to it.
To do so, she creates characters who are unlikeable, sometimes deeply so, but oh-so-human: Unless you're a sociopath, which I think is one of her points, you cannot help but empathize with each of them at times; hate them at others; give them the benefit of the doubt frequently, too frequently perhaps, which is another. Whether or not you are a parent I am not , you cannot help but feel that you've been given a rare insight into someone's worst nightmare, because you have -- whatever angle you are viewing from -- and there is nowhere to go to depersonalize or escape it.
Shriver sidles up to her characters, cycling through the subjectivity of a first-person narrative from a defense into a self-flagellation into an exposition. Though the jig was up half-way through for me in terms of one of the last plot twists, it didn't matter and didn't detract from the facility with which the author employed the epistolary style, and the emotional punch it levelled.
Eva's retrospective self-analysis, through a lens tinged by tragedy, guilt and shame, gives us a perspective into events and motivations both in hindsight and as they unfold, retaining the immediacy and intensity that only a first-person account can provide. It happened but it is never past, because the telling makes it happen in perpetuity, which is exactly how trauma works.
Because of who she is, Eva is able to present with alarming clarity that which is unambiguously evil, and therefore that which remains ambiguous is doubly so. Shriver does not let anyone off the hook--these characters are so complex in their humanity, and yet they are also Boomer-upper middle-class shallow, which is never reduced to a cliche. She also never fails to produce horror--infused with the dark comedy to which only its victims or observers from a comfortable distance are entitled and we are neither --from sometimes mundane domestic details an "eviscerated" 3-yr old's birthday cake.
An exotic pet, a clogged drain and a shaver with an inordinately large amount of hair in it. A glass-eyed antique doll given as a Christmas present. Kevin's rampage, like Shriver's prose, is revealed in poetic detail. I was sometimes shaking with anger while reading. I would have smashed the water pistol a half-dozen pages earlier, yet when Eva finally did, her remorse at her ink-stained yellow shoe left the justification for the act coloured with her materialistic shallowness and hypocrisy.
This scene, one of so many, revealed character in a way that only an absolutely top-notch novelist can ever produce. The writing is brilliant. God is in the details in this novel, in which every page needs, probably, to be read a dozen times not that I could bear it. And there is substance to go with that style: Eva's agoraphobic mother's offer to fly to her after Thursday reduced me to tears, as one mother's unconditional love and courage reflected on the other's--in a mirror, or in relief?
There are no easy answers here, for Eva or for us. There is no clear truth or explanation why, a matter on which all sides, including the reader, must--against our human desire for explanation, order-out-of-chaos, resolution--reluctantly come to agree. This review, now, is an incoherent ramble--unlike Eva's self-confessional, bibliotherapeutic letters and the novel itself.
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It is still a fresh wound for me, and I will need to come back later when I've stanched the flow a bit. View all 35 comments. Jan 12, Fabian rated it it was amazing Shelves: Shriver outshines even Flaubert himself: I can see this as some rather strikingly beautiful monster composed of the few scary parts from Ira Levin's "Rosemary's Baby" and the more ominous tones of "The Omen". It's a modern psychology dissected with words so carefully chosen, both intellectual and to-the-core precise that deconstructs a past for the sake of View all 33 comments.
I did not like this book. Honestly, what was to like about it? The topic is horrifying, the characters are hateful and not just the characters that commit mass murders and the writing style is the worst of all. From the first page I was SO irritated by the writing. I'll bet that the first purchase Ms. Shriver made after finding a publisher for this book was a new thesaurus.
I'm positive that hers was absolutely worn out. It was like, "Hi! Let's see how fancy we can sound! The letter format was an especially poorly-chosen literary device. I get that we, the reader, needed background, but did Eva really think that her husband needed to be reminded, among other things, about all the random little details of his childhood? They were his memories, after all. Why did she need to repeat them to him, and in such an arrogant, condescending way?
And the lists of other school shootings. I became extremely tired of reading about those as Eva ticked them off. I felt like I was hearing a lecture or a compilation of NPR news stories. But speaking of arrogant and condescending, here's another problem that I had with this book. Some children have crappy parents and turn out great, and I've seen the opposite happen as well. Did I really need to say that? Eva was mean, negative, and overbearing throughout the book.
And again, I realize that with the letter format, we are only getting the viewpoint of one, limited, character, but that's not an excuse for making the characters so completely one-dimensional. Kevin was evil, Celia was demure, Franklin was naive, Eva was obnoxious, etc.
Finally, the question of the big reveal. And I actually do have a question about this. It was pretty obvious what was going on, that there was going to be a big reveal, after about page 3 of the book and I'm not talking about the fact that Kevin killed his classmates. That was not meant to be a secret. It was written in the description on the back of the book. My question is this--was this just poorly written so that what was meant to be a big reveal was, well, not? Or did Shriver make it obvious on purpose, in order to make it more awful to read--we knew what was going to happen, and we didn't want to read it, but we were going to have to and were coming closer to it with each page.
I'm going to give Shriver the benefit of the doubt on this one, because if that's what she meant to do, it worked. View all 81 comments. Sep 14, Jenny rated it it was amazing Shelves: Some readers really don't like this book and I'm not entirely sure why.
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Maybe it's because I'm not a mother and I did find it believable that Eva doesn't love her son completely. Maybe it's because I enjoy the big words that were used in the letters and found it believable that she would write this way.
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Maybe I'm a sucker for good endings and this one ended with a bang. I think the writing was superb and despite it being a hard book to read the incident with the maps was particularly brutal , it w Some readers really don't like this book and I'm not entirely sure why. I think the writing was superb and despite it being a hard book to read the incident with the maps was particularly brutal , it was worth it. I think this dealt with the issue of school killings much more effectively than Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes. The character of Kevin did come alive for me and he was believable.
Just like she never thinks about them divorcing, she also never considers giving her son help. Overall, I'm glad I was able to finish it and I'm going to read more of the author's works. View all 9 comments. Hooked by Title and Cover. It did a great job of confirming a few truisms, maternal instincts are not a given, some children are just born bad, and the worst mistake a couple can make is to allow a child to divide them.
Ergo a neurotic son. Would I recommend it? The writing style is unusual, at times painfully raw, often elegant and always intelligent. Be forewarned, she tends too overkill in the adjective department - like me: Impenetrable passions have never made Kevin laugh. From early childhood they have enraged him. They were determined to find something mechanically wrong with him, because broken machines can be fixed.
It was easier to minister to passive incapacity than to tackle the more frightening matter of fierce, crackling disinterest. How can I so deeply love a book that is this agonisingly ugly?? So, in an attempt to limit the coming agony, I made a few rules: Do not get emotionally involved. Do not take sides. Do not dwell on the disturbing parts. I got emotionally involved. I wish I could say that Eva's so horrible that I couldn't relate to her but a teeny-tiny part of me did, especially at the start. Right from the start, I unconsciously sided with Eva. For me, Kevin was quintessentially evil, and Eva was the poor woman who had the misfortune of bearing him.
As for not dwelling on the disturbing parts The book in entirety is a systematically harrowing tale with no escape. I bore the mental anguish. And that's my answer to why I love this ugly, ugly book. It caused me to recoil in horror so many times, but also made me come back to it every single time. Every minute I was reading, I wanted to stop; yet when I put the book down, I wanted to pick it up again.
Like being addicted to something unpleasant and craving it, even when that voice in your head begs you not to. Is Eva such a cold mother because Kevin is who he is? Or did Kevin become who he is because Eva is such a cold mother? In the end, who do we really need to talk about? Because after three days short of eighteen years, I can finally announce that I am too exhausted and too confused and too lonely to keep fighting, and if only out of desperation or even laziness I love my son.
View all 39 comments. I've started this review 6 times now, and each time, I've deleted it because it doesn't quite convey the right thing. I think the problem is that I'm not sure just what that thing is. But one thing I do know is that I love books that make me feel like this I guess it's lucky that this was chosen for our latest group read then, because I fil I've started this review 6 times now, and each time, I've deleted it because it doesn't quite convey the right thing. I guess it's lucky that this was chosen for our latest group read then, because I filibustered there with every jumbled, messy, half-formed thought that my tired-because-I-stayed-up-until-nearly-2am-with-this-book-then-worked-a-fullhours mind could think of Because this book won't keep quiet in my mind.
I finished it last night around 1: Then I slept, and I dreamed about this book, with hazy, distant figures without names or faces, but bigger than life aspects. It's rare that I dream about books. It doesn't matter if I read it up until the minute I drop off; I only dream about a book I'm reading, or have read if it pulled me into its world first. I dream about the books that touch my soul. If I were to nitpick anything, it would be that Eva's pen wandered a tiny bit too much into the outside world. I wanted to see her world, the world of her family, or her lack thereof.
It took a little bit to get there, and for a while, there were hints but the narrative meandered along in its own time. But oh my, once it got going, it really got going. Once I glimpsed this family's world, I couldn't look away. And I don't think that I could even attempt to do the topics or themes any justice as I didn't in my bookclub, not for lack of trying.
This is a book that begs to be turned around to the beginning again and immediately re-read. It's like one of those optical illusions. At first, the picture is simple, but then once you see the hidden picture within it, you gain a new appreciation for the whole. This book was beautifully written, insightful, questioning and heartbreaking. It was nothing at all like I expected, and even guessing the things that I guessed which turned out to be true , it didn't make the impact any less.
This book was so incredible at making me sympathize and empathize with each person's perspective, though we only see these through Eva's brutally honest memory, that it was impossible for me to lay blame anywhere, even though the potential for assigning blame was huge. This was expertly executed pun intended , and it is not one that I will forget any time soon.
View all 10 comments. I don't even know where to start with this one. The book was basically a whole load of nothing. It's the absolute definition of ''trying too hard.
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Throwing them in so often only made for muddled, disjointed, boring to read sentences. We know from the beginning that Kevin has shot a bunch of students dead, and then Eva goes on to tell random, often exaggerated stories from his childhood leading up to the shooting. T I don't even know where to start with this one. The characters are so very unlikable. Eva decides from day 1- literally- that Kevin is evil and out to get her.
He's only a few minutes old when she decides he's plotting against her. When Kevin is 18 months old, she sit in front of him and calls him a ''little shit. Kevin was no better than Eva. He's a horrible piece of work, with no sympathy for anyone. It's clear he's a very disturbed person, but I honestly believe half of it was from trying to get some sort of maternal reaction out of his mother, some sign that she actually cared about him in the slightest.
Franklin was just plain irritating. He lived in his own little world where his son was perfect- despite the fact that he seriously injured his little sister for a start- and is convinced they have a ''great relationship'' when all along Kevin clearly couldn't care less about his father.
I very much disliked the ending. All the characters were suddenly revealed as the complete opposite to what they'd been for the other pages, and I felt a little cheated. There was no need to strive for a somewhat happy ending, when the rest of the book was already very disturbing. View all 30 comments. May 24, Petra X rated it really liked it Shelves: At first, this book seems to be about a mass-murdering Columbine-style kid and whether or not he was born that way or his mother, who didn't love him, made him that way.
Or perhaps it's the lonely ramblings of a woman who has nothing left except guilt, and it's only guilt and anything that feeds it that sustains her. Like a drug addict she gets her fix from visiting her son, then the rush, the letters, free-flowing words, all the guilt tumbling almost joyously out, no detai At first, this book seems to be about a mass-murdering Columbine-style kid and whether or not he was born that way or his mother, who didn't love him, made him that way.
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Like a drug addict she gets her fix from visiting her son, then the rush, the letters, free-flowing words, all the guilt tumbling almost joyously out, no details spared. But she isn't taking drugs and she isn't really writing letters either. I really enjoyed it. View all 8 comments. Sep 01, Jessica rated it really liked it. This book attacked my brain like a virus. The character of Kevin, the teenage murderer whose mom narrates the epistolary novel, was so disturbing and harrowingly well-drawn, that I think it caused some sort of chemical reaction in my brain.
He gave me nightmares. I swear whenever I picked up the book gray clouds covered the sun. In a series of letters to her estranged husband, narrator Eva dissects her family's life, from the decision to have a child to the day her son locked 9 classmates and a t This book attacked my brain like a virus. In a series of letters to her estranged husband, narrator Eva dissects her family's life, from the decision to have a child to the day her son locked 9 classmates and a teacher in the gym and used them for target practice.
Were Eva's ambivalent feelings about motherhood part of what made Kevin into such a monster, or are some people simply born evil? In the case presented in this book, I'm going to have to lean towards the latter. Even as an infant, Kevin is a solid misanthrope and shows a disarming talent for manipulation.
This question, which I think is at the heart of the book, is not as clearly answered as I'm making it out to me. In fact, Lionel Shriver, in writing about readers' responses to this work, says she has seen two camps: One of the quotes on the back calls it "A slow magnetic descent into hell that is as fascinating as it is disturbing," and I think that's pretty accurate. I'm interested to hear what people with children think of it from a parents' perspective.
Because I tell ya, it sure makes motherhood seem terrifying. View all 12 comments. I give this one a couple of meager points for addressing the difficult subject I realise I'm supposed to love my own child but actually I don't because frankly he's a weirdo and always with the backchat, if he fell in a cementmixer how much better would my life be, a lot, and would the world be any the worse, no.
Doris Lessing addressed the topic also in her weedy novel The Fifth Child. It's a big taboo, and all that. For my money though, bypass these poor excuses and go straight to nettyflix or I give this one a couple of meager points for addressing the difficult subject I realise I'm supposed to love my own child but actually I don't because frankly he's a weirdo and always with the backchat, if he fell in a cementmixer how much better would my life be, a lot, and would the world be any the worse, no.
They reached thousands in their lifetime for Christ and continue to do so today. As you share your story, recount what happened when you encountered Jesus and how He intervened, guided, healed, spoke to, or touched your life. Share why He is the reason for your peace, for your hope, for your confidence in life.
God will take you up on your offer to be his instrument if you ask Him. There may be no greater way to grow in your faith this summer than to give it away to someone else. I will never forget that night. We were once in your shoes. I can remember feeling the weight being lifted from my shoulders as I turned in my last final and