The Autobiography of My Mother by Jamaica Kincaid & We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Eva & Xuela – Misanthropic Non-Maternal Monsters?

With Annie John in the Mix

Just started reading the book June 4th and so far good.  I’m up to page 202.  Sadistic, sarcastic, sardonic, yet riveting. Are there bad mothers or are some children just born evil. Kevin is Damien in the movie The Omen to the Nth degree.  If Kevin’s head were shaved would 666 be engraved into his skull?

Lionel Shriver strips away the blither and blather of ideal mother/child bond relationships to get at the gritty core of a malformed twisted dance between two beings who intrinsically hate each other from conception and birth.

Ms. Shriver is an excellent storyteller and I’m enjoying the novel.  It is written in the form of letters from Kevin’s mother, Eva to her ex-husband, Franklin. I’m captivated.

I will save my double trouble book(s) side by side REVIEWS for Friday.  This book will have you hooked. It shows the psychology of the parents and of the son who went on a “Columbine” in his school.  This book really digs deep and brings up a number of parent/child issues most of us would like to ignore.  I call it the ugly side of mother hood.  What happens to the young white upscale people in the novel is only six degrees away from a poor Black or Hispanic woman living in the inner city.

The mother Eva is writing her ex-spouse Franklin about her feelings about their marriage relationship and what lead to their son Kevin turning into a mass murderer at his school ala Columbine.  To say that Eva is the antithesis of what is a mother is an understatement.  Eva is the living breathing definition of a woman who can get pregnant, give birth yet not be a mother.  She is woman possessing no maternal instincts whatsoever.  Eva is a sociopath who has merely reproduced one of her own kind. For her having son Kevin was a disastrous experiment gone awry.

Like many couples from all walks of life and economic levels they do not count the cost of having a child. Eva and Franklin based their decision to have Kevin as a requirement, duty and human/marital obligation.

Children as they are to discover are neither an accessory nor a fun hobby.  They demand time, attention and they have their own unique personalities. Children also innately know whether or not their parents or caretakers love them, which causes them to respond, react or lash out at family, friends, teachers & schoolmates.

A few months ago I read The Autobiography of My Mother by Jamaica Kincaid about a woman who is emotionally disconnected on many levels from nearly all the humans she encounters.  Once I finish We Need to Talk About Kevin, it would be interesting to do a comparison between the two novels and the two alienated characters, one seen the other grappling with an ghost.

A common thread running through Xuela and Eva is how they view children, not as a desired blessing but as possessive alien beings or as unwelcome parasites.  Children in their minds are an interference with normal life.  Xuela chooses to extinguish any life form within her even before gestation has begun.  Eva transmits her resentment and disgust to Kevin from the time she discovers she is pregnant.

Xuela and Eva did not lose the capacity to love; it was never within them in the first place.

The Autobiography of My Mother by Jamaica Kincaid

The key to great writing is great story telling and Jamaica Kincaid is a great storyteller.  Her prose is beautiful, spare, blunt, compact and to the point. Her writing cuts you to the heart. Of course I’m biased because I love Jamaica Kincaid. She is one of the best raconteurs ever!  So engrossed am I in her storyline that even though I’m eager for the next development I’m saddened by the ever expanding vignettes because I know that the book will end and my foray with the characters will end.

The title itself is intriguing since an autobiography by definition is an account written by him or herself since the mother in the story is deceased everything is seen through the eyes of the daughter, Xuela.

This immediately sets the story on its head providing an inverse tale of a mother/daughter relationship without the mother being physically able to tell her story.  This novel introspection of a woman haunted through a lifetime by her own guilt at perhaps killing her only opportunity to have experienced true love.

Xuela continues to search for love always via the mother she never knew, the mother whom though she never directly comes out and says so, Xuela believes she killed just by being born.

Xuela experiences a dichotomy of self. Surrounded by others, in the midst of a sea of humanity and even during intimate relations with various lovers she is disconnected from other humans in a way unfathomable for most of us.

Basically unloved and unwanted by an indifferent father Xuela disassociates from every other man in her life.  Xuela never developed the ability to experience love fully with soul as well as body, even with men who become her “lovers”.  Her lovers and the people she interacts with are like ghost figures, much like the mother she envisions in her dreams, never quite fully accessible to Xuela’s heart.

Ms. Kincaid explores the many levels of Xuela’s dissonance with her fellow humans through the race and gender restrictions of the time period. In fact she rather struck me as having a sociopathic personality. Xuela appears incapable of having any positive human emotions towards others around her except when doing so might seem to benefit her.  A hidden barely reveled guilt surfaces in these two women causing them shame in what might have been

Annie John

Ms. Kincaid’s books deal with many mother/daughter issues.  The always seems to be that undercurrent of sadness, pain, and displeasure in the midst of island paradise.  The Autobiography of My Mother is a narrative on the mother the daughter never knew and Annie John, the novel I’m currently reading is a tale of the deteriorating relationship between a mother and daughter who know each other perhaps all too well.

Both protagonists in The Autobiography of My Mother and Annie John are women whose lives are rhapsodies with discordant notes and chords.  Both novels are in-depth psychological studies of young women on the edge.

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Writer, Educator, Researcher, avid book reader and Tattoo enthusiast
Pinky: “Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?”
The Brain: “The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to take over the world!”

3 thoughts on “The Autobiography of My Mother by Jamaica Kincaid & We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

    1. Martha, Thank you for reading my blog. Jamaica Kincaid’s writing is very raw. All the books were very blunt and to the point, the characters and their interactions could be quite disturbing but that shows Ms. Kincaid’s writing has a great impact on her readers.

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