Never have I read a book that has brought me to tears. I’ve been close, my eyes have maybe even welled up a few times in the past, but A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold put me right over the edge, forcing me to lie awake thinking of what I just read long after I put the back down. I had to force myself to turn out the light when I just wanted to keep reading right to the end. As I said this is a rare reaction for me, especially in a book of non-fiction, and this memoir is something I won’t soon forget.
Sue Klebold is the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine Shooters. Yes, now you see why this book is so powerful, and why it was so upsetting to read. There are no gory details, nothing you wouldn’t have learned from reading a quick summary of the tragedy, Sue did not write this for attention, and I guarantee it wouldn’t have been published if it had been a book like that. Her story is one of grief, extreme guilt, and above all, confusion. One thought reappears time and time again in this book: how could my son do this?
This book is shocking though; mainly because it goes against the thoughts we appease ourselves with we learn about something like this on the news. Sue and her husband Tom created a stable, loving home. They were involved parents who communicated with their kids openly, and frequently. Dylan was constantly told he was loved, in fact just a few days before he committed these crimes then killing himself, Sue had given him a great big hug, looked him in the eyes, and reminded him how much he was loved, and how proud she was of him. She was completely unaware of the crippling depression that he had been secretly fighting for over two years, which would ultimately steer him towards this now infamous murder suicide. Which is what leads to the ultimate message and lesson of this book; mental health should be a focus for every parent, no matter who you are, or whether you believe your kids are susceptible to ‘brain illness’ or not.
If I had read this book before becoming a parent, it definitely wouldn’t have affected me the same way. In fact, I won’t recommend this book to my childless friends because it may scare them away from having kids entirely. What was so disturbing about this book was Sue’s vast and all consuming grief. And this grief was made so much more palpable to the reader when she constantly compared Dylan’s adolescence to his early childhood. Her descriptions of him as a toddler were so painful to read, it literally took my breath away. She never dreamed in a million years that her child would be capable of such rage and violence. Of course, no one does, but the shock that the world experienced over the tragedy was nothing compared to the shock that Sue experienced, suddenly struck with the realization that her entire life as a parent has been a lie. At some points she wishes she or Dylan had never been born as her and her husband long for an accidental death to end their pain, but of course she never stops grieving for her son, fantasizing about seeing him one last time. Every parent knows you love your children, no matter what, even if the rest of the world sees them as a monster. What an awful contradiction this woman faces each and every day.
This book is so chilling that part of me was desperate to get it out of my house, but I also think every parent should read it, because it brings to light such an important part of parenting that is usually overlooked. This may be one of the most uncomfortable and painful books you will ever read, but it will be also be one of the most important.