Title: A Mother’s Reckoning
Author: Sue Klebold
Published: February 9th 2017 (Originally: February 15th 2016)
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, True Crime
Length: 305 pages
Source: NetGalley eARC
Book Blurb (via Goodreads):
On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives.
For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently?
These are questions that Klebold has grappled with every day since the Columbine tragedy. In A Mother’s Reckoning, she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. In the hope that the insights and understanding she has gained may help other families recognize when a child is in distress, she tells her story in full, drawing upon her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and on countless interviews with mental health experts.
Filled with hard-won wisdom and compassion, A Mother’s Reckoning is a powerful and haunting book that sheds light on one of the most pressing issues of our time. And with fresh wounds from the recent Newtown and Charleston shootings, never has the need for understanding been more urgent.
All author profits from the book will be donated to research and to charitable organizations focusing on mental health issues.
I first heard about the Columbine shooting when I was in high school studying the movie Bowling for Columbine in Media Studies. I was fascinated by the events that led up to the shooting, what had made the boys seek to destroy their school so violently, and when I saw this book – from the mother of one of the shooters – I knew I wanted to read it.
Sue Klebold’s family was shaken when her son chose to go to Columbine High School and shoot his fellow students. The aftermath of the event led to her struggling to get through the days. Threats made against her family, herself, and not really sure how to direct her feelings. Sue’s life changed that day, but she’s found ways of coping with her loss. She tells the brutally honest account of the days, weeks, months, and years after the event and her experiences during that time.
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, Sue is very honest about her experiences during the aftermath. She shares journal entries and all of her thoughts and feelings. While I admire her for this, I found it difficult to read her accounts.
She focuses very much on all the warning signs she missed and what she could have done to change things. She reflects on her relationship with her son and how he didn’t really seem that different from normal in the days leading up to the tragedy. I felt like she was trying to paint the very best picture of her son – understandably – but also not acknowledging his faults as well as she could have. It was very biased – again, understandably – and I felt like I should be taking everything she says with a pinch of salt.
I found the account of what she did after returning to work and finding support groups quite interesting. With all the legal hoops they were having to jump through and follow, I could understand how she felt so isolated at the time. People always jump so quickly to blame the parents, and maybe they’re right, but Sue’s account tells us that she had no idea anything was coming. She raised what she thought was a well-mannered, normal teenage boy.
I guess my biggest issue with this novel was how she portrayed her son, almost idolising the idea of the boy she had before. While the focus on how she got through her emotional struggles and helps with charities to fight things like this happening again. I’m not sure her account had the desired effect on me.
I can’t say for sure what my thoughts are surrounding tragedies like these. I’m not sure where blame should lie and whether people’s reactions were too far or not. This is a book that gives another side to a very well known story. It is probably not for everyone.
About the Author
Sue Klebold is the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the two shooters at Columbine High School in 1999 who killed 13 people before ending their own lives, a tragedy that saddened and galvanized the nation. She has spent the last 15 years excavating every detail of her family life, and trying to understand the crucial intersection between mental health problems and violence. Instead of becoming paralyzed by her grief and remorse, she has become a passionate and effective agent working tirelessly to advance mental health awareness and intervention.
*Biography from Goodreads