Some Days this World is Hard to Fathom

I watched the movie The Dark Knight Rises and felt a chill when the random shooting scene came on. I can’t even begin to imagine how terrifying it must have been for the victims.

The horrifying mass murder in a Colorado movie theatre, by suspected killer, 24 year old doctoral student, James Holmes, immediately brought me back to a book I read that comes close to real life horror, although it’s fiction. It was probably then based on the Columbine murders. I wrote the post a few years ago, but didn’t publish as it was one of those private personal posts. Decided it’s relevant now:

What I wrote on 5 September 2007:

I just read a book by Lionel Shriver called We Need to Talk about Kevin. It was so compelling that I could not put it down. The author was daringly honest. The author is female by the way. She changed her name from Maria to Lionel because she liked the sound of it.

I must admit the macabre storyline grabbed me – told through the eyes of the mother of a high school shooter. The plot is exquisitely revealed through a series of letters written by the main character to her estranged husband. The story delves into the possibility that maternal instinct may sometimes be absent and you don’t fall in love with your child at first sight. The character is conflicted about having a child in the first place and feels revulsion from the moment it is born.

The book became a bestseller by word of mouth. Mothers at one time or another entertained these dark thoughts and finally someone dared to put it on paper. Someone dared to explore the nature vs nurture question and how Motherhood is not a hallmark card. The book also resonated with women on the fringe, who chose not to have children for one reason or another.

I grew up and I realised that having a child is not about yourself but about what kind of life you can provide them. You have to be completely selfless which is why I adore my own mum so much, but I was never quite sure any child of mine would be so lucky even though I have very strong maternal instincts.

I recently also watched the movie adaptation of the book which starred Tilda Swinton as the mother who tried very hard but was unable to connect with her child. In one scene she is so angry with her toddler, who seems to hate her that she flings him hard and breaks his arm. The movie was not as believable as the book but it made you feel for the mother and her guilt over the atrocities committed by a son on innocent people. You also can’t help feeling sorry for her as the story is told from her perspective and it’s painful to watch the character wash off red paint splashed on her house and car as the victims unable to come to terms with their grief and anger, direct it towards her.

I can’t help but be curious about to what extent a parent is responsible for a child’s action and whether this is fair? And at what point do you take action when you see signs, and are there any signs or is it something that’s only seen on hindsight? Could it all have been prevented if the child had some help at an earlier stage before they became a sociopath? What makes them snap? Or did they snap at all? Could a person be pure evil? What can be done to prevent this happening ever again? I think we all have a million unanswered questions. It’s all very confusing in this troubling world. It also makes me grateful that I live in Singapore with her strict laws and relative safety, and I wonder when other countries will enforced stricter laws on guns and weapons. Hasn’t this kind of horror occurred one time too many? I still cannot fathom how anyone can take an innocent life so randomly and one of the victims was a 6 year old. On days like this, the world feels nightmarish.

About bookjunkie

Blogging about life in Singapore helps me survive the mid-life crisis
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2 Responses to Some Days this World is Hard to Fathom

  1. Sam says:

    I read Shriver’s book too. As a reader, I really enjoyed the book for its literary style, character and plot development. As a parent, I really appreciate that she has written something that most people would not like to talk about, namely, disliking a child or your own child. I love my children dearly but I can’t completely say that my thoughts are always positive. And I think dark thoughts do exist in every one of us. It may not be about hurting others but I’m sure there’s some part within even the meekest of us that find some violence, aggression or ill will gratuitous.

    • bookjunkie says:

      Thanks for your very honest comment Sam…much appreciated. The psychology of the human mind is really fascinating.

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