Study Guide

We Need to Talk About Kevin Family

By Lionel Shriver

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We'd agreed that whether we became parents would be "the single most important decision we would ever make together." (2.10)

Good. This is good. This is a very good start, guys. This decision to create a family shouldn't be taken lightly. So what the heck goes wrong with these two?

"Motherhood," I condensed in the park. "Now, that is a foreign country." (2.59)

Eva is a world traveler, and she often compares the experience of motherhood, and later trying to understand Kevin, to traveling to a foreign world. Is this an apt analogy? What does a person have to do to prepare for this journey? Why is Eva unable to do it?

We staged an unofficial contest of sorts: whose parents were the most bonkers. (2.81)

Eva doesn't have a lot of respect for her own mother, who is a shut-in. We're not sure what Franklin's issues are with his own parents, and we only meet them briefly. How do both Eva and Franklin try to create a family different from the ones in which they grew up?

I was mortified by the prospect of becoming hopeless trapped in someone else's story. (3.40)

Is Eva too selfish to start a family? Does a person need an element of selflessness to be parent? It can be hard to find a balance between living a life for yourself and for your child. How does Eva try to balance this out? Does she try?

I would let parenthood influence our behavior; you would have parenthood dictate our behavior. If that seems a subtle distinction, it is night and day. (5.33)

This quote is similar to the previous one, regarding Eva's apparent selfishness. What is the difference between these points Eva makes? Do you agree with her thought process here?

"I couldn't have expected that simply forming an attachment to you […] would be so much work." (6.10)

Many people believe that a mother loves her child instantly. But Eva seems to be an exception. Right off the bat, that makes forming a loving family unit an uphill climb for her.

"Who wants to be loved like that? Given a choice, I might skip the deep blood tie and settle for being liked." (13.69)

Eva makes an interesting point here. How many times have you heard a person say, "I love my [insert family member here], but I just can't stand them sometimes"? Wouldn't it be better to like a person, instead of feeling whatever it feels like to be related by blood? What's the difference?

I don't want to see the resemblance. I don't want to spot the same mannerisms […] like beholding my husband possessed. (15.91)

Some people like looking for genetic evidence of their ancestors in their living family members. "You have your grandfather's eyes," for example. But there's a drawback to that, like when your son murders your husband, and you can't help but see your dead husband's face in the face of his killer. That's some dark stuff.

"Eva, please calm down. I'm never going to break up our family." (16.75)

Lies. Franklin is the one who later, ironically, asks for a divorce. Eva has a ton of trouble holding her family together, but she never once considers leaving it.

Maybe every family has one member whose appointed job it is to fabricate this attractive packaging. (25.236)

Franklin is kind of the peacekeeper of the family. We say "kind of" because he keeps peace, but at what cost? Do you think every family has a member like this? Who is this member in your family? And do they sometimes hurt more than they help?

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