A Mother’s Reckoning (Review)

Just sitting here at my desk thinking about Sue Klebold’s book, my eyes become blurry with tears. A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, is one of the most moving books I have ever read. Klebold-00

It is the story of a mother trying to come to terms with the fact that her cheerful, friendly, loveable son helped to perpetrate the most infamous school shooting in history.  Dylan Klebold and his friend Eric Harris attacked Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, on April 20, 1999. Minutes later, twelve students and a teacher were killed, 24 others were seriously wounded, then Klebold and Harris committed suicide. The news shook the nation and reverberated around the world.

The public was quick to judge the parents of the two young men.  How could they have not known what their sons were planning?  Many theories were hatched by people trying to make sense of the horrific tragedy.  The mother of Dylan Klebold found herself in the vortex of a storm that continues to haunt her to this day.

School shootings and mass murders have unfortunately become common events in the United States.  When we hear about the latest tragedy, we might think about the lives of the victims.  We also wonder about the shooter.  The media is quick to give us background information about his (it’s nearly always a male) past criminal record, work, and fascination with guns. We’re rarely told anything substantial about his family.

I’ve never given a whole lot of thought about what it might be like to be the parent of a murderer.  Few of us have wished to think about such a topic.  However, when we ask ourselves what is it like to forever be known as the mother of a mass shooter, we don’t have proper words to express such a concept.

Sue Klebold writes that she and her husband, Tom, raised two sons, Byron and Dylan. By anyone’s standards, there was nothing unusual about their family life. They were a normal, middle class family. There was no abuse, nor other dysfunction that was apparent. The two sons got into the typical scrapes that teenaged boys normally get into.Klebold-02

The youngest son, Dylan, was a happy-go-lucky kid who was eager to please his parents and friends.  Dylan enjoyed many close friendships, was active in extra-curricular activities, meaningly loved his family and was deeply loved by them, as well. There were no apparent clues to anyone that he was going to shoot up his school.

After Sue was told about the mass shooting and that her son was involved, she didn’t think that Dylan willfully participated. She believed he was coerced or convinced to commit the horrible crime against his convictions. She thought Dylan would have been the last person on Earth to do such an evil deed.

Klebold’s story of motherhood in the shadow of her son’s infamy is eloquently told.  I was driven to carefully read each page, yet I had to pause occasionally to dry my eyes and reflect on Klebold’s pain and confusion.  She did not set about to make excuses for her son’s crime, but Sue shares her struggle to try to understand what drove him to commit such extreme violence.

Sue Klebold has said that her book is part memoir and part manifesto. The wording is carefully measured and thoughtful.  She said the ordinariness of their family before the Columbine shootings might be the most difficult thing for average people to understand.  Klebold stresses that it’s that ordinariness that is the book’s most important takeaway.

It is only after she views the school’s security camera footage, showing Dylan’s rampage, that Sue Klebold begins to fully realize that there was a well-hidden, dark Klebold-01aspect to her beloved youngest son. That aspect was further revealed by watching videotapes that were recorded in the basement of Eric Harris’ home, “The Basement Tapes”.  It was on those, that she saw a completely foreign part of Dylan’s character.

An important clue is revealed through “The Basement Tapes”.  That is Dylan and Eric thought of themselves as outcasts.  In fact, the two had been bullied by some of their classmates.  The two friends hatched a plot to completely destroy their school as an act of vengeance. It is at this point that the book becomes even more emotionally complex.

It wasn’t until I finished reading A Mother’s Reckoning, that I read a news story expressing that parents of teens, who have read Klebold’s book, have become deeply alarmed. This is very understandable. Even if you don’t have children, you know that you cannot fully know your kids.  When we recall our own teenage years, we remember that we kept many important things secret from our parents.  What does all of this mean in the age of readily available weapons and our violent culture?

This book is a very important must-read.  When you sit down to digest this page turner, have a box of tissues nearby.

{ A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold; 336 pages, published February 15, 2016 by Crown; ISBN: 978-1-101-90275-2 }

moi1988bThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Sue Klebold. “I wish I could offer redemption. I can’t — it isn’t mine to give (and even if it were I know it wouldn’t help). What can I say? Just this: I believe you, I believe you, I believe you.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
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