A Mother’s Reckoning – Review

by Lee

On 20th April, 1999 Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went to school with the intention to kill. They murdered thirteen people – twelve students and a teacher – and injured twenty-four. Eventually, the two perpetrators turned their guns against themselves and committed suicide. Eric and Dylan had intended to take many more lives. However, the pipe bombs the boys had built and brought to Columbine High School fortunately failed to detonate. The Columbine massacre shocked the world. Speculations on the reasons why these teenage boys decided to commit such a heinous crime began circulating soon after the shooting. There was talk about bullying, violent video games, and bad parenting. Not being able to get an explanation from the two dead teenagers, the media and families of the victims did not take long to turn against Eric and Dylan’s parents. They were blamed for failing to see their sons’ intentions and to prevent the massacre.

Next April, it will be seventeen years since this tragedy unfolded. Unfortunately, Columbine wasn’t an isolated incident. There was Virginia Tech in 2007, which claimed thirty-three lives. In 2012, the Sandy Hook shooting left twenty-eight dead. These are only the most “high-profile” school shootings. There were so many more. In each of the shootings I’ve just mentioned, the perpetrators – like Eric and Dylan – committed suicide. Nobody could deny the shooters in these cases were deeply troubled kids.

After all these years, Sue Klebold – Dylan Klebold’s mother – made the decision to write about her son and her shattered life after the shooting by publishing A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy.

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Sue Klebold writes about the Dylan she reared and loved. She writes about the son she knew before the massacre. She explains how she clings to the image of her son as her “sunshine boy,” rather than the cold-blooded mass murderer. She includes pictures of Dylan looking like any ordinary, happy and loved child. The pictures are particularly heart-wrenching and I understand how difficult it must have been for Klebold to wrap her head around the unspeakable crime her son committed. Even after seventeen years, it appears that Klebold is still struggling to write about him. Her writing is disjointed, repetitive. It underlines the sheer impossibility to write clearly about such an emotionally complex subject.  It highlights the guilt she still feels after all these years and her distraught desire to atone for her son’s crime. Her book left me wondering how anyone could have blamed the parents for not being able to read their sons’ minds like an open book. No parent truly can, which is the point Klebold eventually makes. Depressed teenagers are often experts at hiding their anguish from those who are closest to them. I commend Klebold for sharing what she’s learned about mental health and her attempt to educate her readers about suicide. She doesn’t deny the damage her son has caused but very bravely admits that she still loves him despite the pain and chaos he left behind.

A Mother’s Reckoning is a troubling read, which makes you wonder whether you truly know those who are closest to you. It will make you thoughtful and sad. I’m grateful Sue Klebold wrote this book and shared her pain. There are many things to be learned from this text and I can only recommend it to anyone who’s interested in learning more about mental health, Dylan Klebold’s short life and how Sue Klebold deals with being the mother of a dead teenager, who forever will be remembered by the public as a mass murderer.

This book was published by Crown on 15th February 2016.

A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy

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