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.
**Thank you NetGalley for a complimentary copy of this title in exchange for an honest review**
I started this book just before Christmas and had to read it in small chunks ever since. It’s a tough read and broke my heart on every page.
I don’t normally read more than one book at a time but I needed to punctuate this book with some lighter stuff because it was dragging me down into depression. There’s a trigger warning for you right there: take caution in reading this book if you suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts.
This book is the heart wrenching memoir by the mother of a high school shooter. Sue Klebold was an ordinary mother, she was attentive and involved in her son’s everyday life but she didn’t pick up on the subtle signs which could have shown her what her son was planning.
This book explores that very fact, highlighting how difficult it is to see into the mind of another human being if they choose to hide something, in this case- depression. Dylan’s parents had no idea that he was suicidally depressed for years before he took catastrophic action, and I for one believe that there’s no way they could have known without specialist advice. Unless you’re looking at your loved ones and specifically for signs of suicidal or homicidal thoughts, how would you spot those signs? How many of us look at children and wonder if they’re thinking about killing themselves or others?
I believe her when she says that Dylan was an empathetic and compassionate teenager. It doesn’t absolve him of anything that he did, but it does shine a new light on matters – a kind and thoughtful teenager can still do these things. Posthumously, Dylan has been diagnosed with various mental conditions which can never be definitively proven but seem very likely.
Klebold uses the term ‘brain health’ a lot in this book rather than ‘mental health’ and makes an excellent point: ‘mental health’ is made to sound so ethereal, as if any illness or diagnosis would be questionable. Whereas with ‘brain health’ is sounds more grounded in fact – we believe in high blood pressure and know that it could cause a heart attack, we should believe in chemical imbalances in the brain that could cause irrational behaviour too. It’s a purely psychological use of the term, but it makes a good point.
This book packs a hell of a punch and does discuss tragedy, grief, depression and suicide in great but essential detail. My heart broke for Sue (I don’t normally use authors’ first names, but this book feels so much like reading someone’s diary that you lose a bit of formality along the way) over and over again,
Sue Klebold has not written this book for financial gain, donating all proceeds to brain health charities. She hasn’t written it to protest her innocence or to beg forgiveness, she’s poured her heart out on a page to tell other people what the signs were that she’d missed in her own son and overall:
‘Anyone can be suicidal. Don’t assume that you and your loved ones are safe, so educate yourself and be aware of the people around you.’