We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

downloadIt’s quite a feat to create suspense in a novel told only in retrospective letters from one character to another about a subject whose climax we already know at the outset–but Shriver has accomplished that. She’s also captured the concept of gaslighting with piercing accuracy (it’s almost unpleasant to read because it’s so realistic) and created an epic battle between mother (Eva) and son (Kevin) that begins before he is ever born. We are always to wonder what Eva’s contribution was to all of this — and what was the contribution of her disbelieving husband? Layer in race (Armenian), gender, and class issues. It’s shocking and violent, but almost never graphic, and it escalates so slowly you can see how it would get out of hand.

This was one of those books where the book itself fades into the background, and I just keep thinking about the characters and what they did, and why. To create characters that only react to as people, not as part of fiction — that’s craft.

(Note: Maybe you know why I am reading this, topic-wise. It’s a clue about my next project!)

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