Book Jacket Synopsis: “On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. In a matter 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 horrors? 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 up her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and 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, Charleston, and Oregon college shootings, never has the need for understanding been more urgent.”
Review: I don’t remember what I was doing on April 20, 1999. I would have only been 7 years old, after all. In contrast, Sue Klebold remembers exactly what she was doing. She remembers waking up, saying goodbye to her son, Dylan, and going to work. She remembers getting a phone call from her incoherent husband about a shooting at Columbine High School. And she remember waiting in the driveway of her house while police officers and bomb squads searched the premises. For Klebold, and countless others, April 20, 1999 will live on in painful infamy. A Mother’s Reckoning is her attempt to share what she’s learned in the years since Dylan helped carry out one of the deadliest school shootings in American history. Much of the first half of the book is dedicated to describing Dylan’s upbringing as a beloved member of a four-person family. The events of Columbine are presented in full detail about halfway through the book, and the rest of A Mother’s Reckoning is spent trying to understand why Dylan did what he did. If Klebold’s goal is to prove to the reader that her and her husband Tom, while imperfect, were loving, affectionate, and attentive parents, then she succeeds. After reading A Mother’s Reckoning, it is clear that Dylan’s mental health issues and eventual turn to violence were largely shielded from his parents. This, as Klebold points out, is what makes Columbine so terrifying; even if someone is brought up in good circumstances, they can still make terrible choices. While captivating as a whole, I did have a few issues with A Mother’s Reckoning. Stylistically, I felt like Klebold was quite repetitive at times. She would introduce events or stories early on, and then repeat them with slightly more detail in later chapters. This made the timeline confusing. Much of the book was dedicated to considering the role Dylan’s declining mental health played in the massacre. Given what psychologists and counselors have told Klebold, Dylan was the depressive, suicidal counterpart to Eric’s psychopathic aggression. Without each other, the Columbine massacre might have been avoided. The information on mental health is an absolutely critical component of understanding what happened, but I felt like a piece of the story was missing because Klebold didn’t really discuss how Dylan and Eric got the weapons that they used in the massacre. In my opinion, that is a really important component of what happened, and speaks to the broader gun control issues in the US. These things aside, A Mother’s Reckoning was eye-opening and impossible to put down.
As with A Stolen Life, I find it unnecessary to rate A Mother’s Reckoning. I do believe that many people would benefit from reading this book, as it dispels a lot of myths about the Columbine shooting and also emphasizes how subtle the signs of mental illness can be. This book really made me empathize with the family members of mass shooters. After all, they not only have to grapple with losing a loved one, but also with the devastating actions that that loved one took. It’s an impossible burden.