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 recognise 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 organisations focusing on mental health issues.
I have mulled over this review for a while, worrying about my abilities to write a review that is also sensitive given the subject matter of A Mother’s Reckoning and the fact that it is written by the mother of Dylan Klebold, whose son was tragically one of the shooters and took his own life during the event.
Sadly, the name Columbine has become synonymous with high school shootings in America and is now, I would guess, largely recognised for that than being an actual school. If you are unfamiliar with Columbine, on 20 April 1999 two high school students, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, set off numerous bombs within their school. As they failed to detonate, the boys entered the school with guns shooting students and staff before committing suicide.
Although I always very much viewed as what happened on that cataclysmic day as a tragedy for both victims and shooters, I admit to being concerned on starting this book that Sue Klebold may try and excuse and absolve her son of responsibility. She doesn’t at all and writes with honesty about her son and her feelings towards him. I was also concerned that I may feel voyeuristic while reading this, however, Sue has, as I hoped, written about the extenuating circumstances which may have resulted in her son’s actions and highlights the impact of, as she terms ‘brain health’, and our inability as a society and as parents to recognise the signs and access the help needed.
While school shootings—in which students open fire on other students—don’t happen here in Britain, mental health amongst our children and teens is an escalating issue with a lack of resources available to provide support in a timely and appropriate manner, making this an interesting read for parents and professionals who work with children. In trying to understand why her son committed this act before taking his own life, Klebold has clearly spent a lot of time researching the subject and talking to professionals in the field. It is this clear emphasis on research that sets this book apart.
Klebold expresses her emotions during the aftermath with real feeling and intelligence. Describing how she loves her son and misses him and yet also feels angry with him and cannot come to terms with what he has done is incredibly moving. It is incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t been through it, yet Klebold manages to evoke empathy within the reader.
Powerful, raw, honest, heat-rending and intelligently written, I give all credit to Sue Klebold for putting herself out there in a bid to assist others despite potential back lash. is certainly not an easy read due to the subject matter but it is a thought-provoking and essential read and it has made me think more deeply about the issues raised and given me a different perspective on Dylan.
My thanks go to Sue Klebold, Ebury Publishing and Netgalley for the advance copy in exchange for my review.
Published on Ebook on 15 February 2016 and on paperback on 9 February 2017 by Ebury.