Book Review: A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy – Sue Klebold

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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.

When you go into a book like this, you expect to face difficult questions, questions of morals and honestly, someone to blame. A lot of people were quick in the days after Columbine to point the finger at the parents of the shooters, after all they should have known, right? In the years since the shooting, Sue turned down many book deals, she didn’t feel she could speak honestly about the son she still loved despite what he did, as well as being in many long legal battles. This book needs to be read with an open mind and with the reminder that this is a mother who has had to try and deal with not only the death of her son, but also the aftermath of what he has done.

I was completely fascinated with the idea of this book, because to my knowledge it hasn’t been done before. We never think of the parents of the shooters, which is understandable, we want to think of the victims, their families. To see Sue’s perspective opened my eyes to the aftermath of these events when the news crews leave and a community is left to pick up the pieces and look at people in a new light.

Sue doesn’t shy away from the darkness and depression that she felt, the hopelessness and self-hatred both her and her husband felt in the years following the shooting. She also is completely honest about her feelings towards her son. At times it is hard to read, she is a mother, of course, she would try to see the good in her son and try and find every plausible reason he is innocent. Sometimes you want to shout through the book, but it is at this point that you will need to look at the bigger picture, I admit I struggled with this throughout the book. By the time I finished, I understood as much as I could the emotional journey she had gone through.

It’s definitely a tough and complex read, which Sue addresses throughout but it is also educational. Sue has done a lot of research, contacted experts and looked over every shred of evidence she could, really to try and understand what went wrong with her son. In light of this Sue wanted to understand mental health, start conversations as she truly believes that this is the only way to prevent further violent acts, that parents should know the warning signs of depressive behaviours. She talks in an educated manner about suicide, mental illness, what it’s like to not know someone is suffering. These topics are all covered with honesty, intelligence and care.

I gave this 4/5 stars. It was a particularly interesting, challenging and emotional book and I can only applaud Sue for speaking out. Some will, of course, question whether Sue should have written this book, whether anyone should feel sorry for her. They’re valid questions, particularly in light of the victims and their families, but all I can say is you have to read it to understand. Sue want’s to bring education and attention to the world in regards to mental health, because she does feel guilt and pain about what her son did, but she’s going to fight for the rest of her life to try and help those in need.

 

Copy received via Netgalley for review

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