Our book for February 2013 in Silver Spring is We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, a 2003 thriller and close study of maternal ambivalence, and the role it might have played in the title character's decision to murder nine people at his high school. The book created a lot of controversy, and achieved success through word of mouth. It is written from the perspective of the mother of mass killer, told in the first person through letters written to her husband. It one the 2005 Orange Prize, a U.K.-based prize for female authors of any country writing in English. Shriver is an American, born in North Carolina. A film of the novel was released in May 2011.
Shriver identifies American optimism and "high-hopes-crushed" as one of the novel's primary themes, as represented by Franklin, the narrator’s husband, who serves as "the novel’s self-willed optimist about the possibility of a happy family." Rationalization for Kevin's behavior is one of the central themes of the story: when asked the simple question "Why?" after the massacre, he responds that he is giving the public the excitement and scandal that they secretly crave. Only in rare instances does another side of Kevin emerge: in childhood when he becomes very ill, and later, just before he is transferred to an adult prison and is evidently nervous. Near the end of the book when asked for the first time by his mother "Why?," he responds, "I used to think I knew. Now I'm not so sure."