I expect that A Mother’s Reckoning: Living In The Aftermath Of Tragedy, will be the most controversial book of 2016. How could it not? For the first time since the tragic events at Columbine High School, shooter Dylan Klebold’s mother, Sue, shares her story. Sue described the morning that her world changed as a result of her son’s decision to kill twelve of his peers and injure twenty-four others with his friend Eric Harris. Her purpose in writing the book was to shed some light on Dylan’s upbringing and to also raise awareness about bullying and adolescent behavior that can turn deadly. She did both exceptionally well.
Sue selected her words carefully and apologized throughout her memoir as she grieved for the loss of her son, questioned how he turned into the killer he became, and attempted to understand his mental state. To shed light on what could have possibly led Dylan to commit the atrocities, Sue described Dylan, who sounded like as a normal teenager who was brought up in a “good” middle class family. By sharing many, many, stories that showed his personality, she explained why his actions stunned her family as much as it had the American public. She was mercilessly harassed and received death threats by people who felt certain she either caused Dylan’s behavior or should have known what an angry young man he was. Such a position is extremely unfair. After all, if we could tell a murderer by their outward appearance, wouldn’t crime stop?
I think people have been wanting to hear from Dylan’s parents to learn something about his life and upbringing that would have been a clear signal Columbine would happen. The most honest thing about this story, is that there just isn’t any one thing to point to that will serve that purpose. Sue spoke about depression and mental issues as a warning to other parents to dig into their children’s lives and make sure they are mentally stable. Although Sue holds Dylan accountable for the decision he made, she somewhat minimized his involvement when she states that Dylan was an especially suggestible teenager who got caught up in Eric’s plan.
My biggest issue with the book, was that it downplayed the actual events of the shooting. I doubt that someone with little knowledge of the tragedy would have understood the magnitude of what happened from what was presented here. It wasn’t until halfway through the book that Sue explained, in a rather stark and brief description, what her son and Eric actually did. Frankly, the victims deserved more. I didn’t necessary need to learn the information at the exact chronological moment Sue did. Instead, the information should have been inserted nearer the beginning of the book, if for no other reason than to accurately depict the actions that caused havoc in Sue’s life.
At times the book felt a little self-serving and selfish. Sue understood, but was hurt, when people removed memorials for Dylan and Eric placed alongside the children they murdered in the days of the aftermath. Well, obviously. But, she was and is genuinely concerned for the victims’ families and carries a substantial amount of guilt on behalf of her son with her each day.
Regardless of what you think about this book, whether she should have written it or shouldn’t have, this was powerfully written and address many health and teen issues constantly overlooked. The greatest value of the book was to raise awareness to school bullying and depression.