Review – A Mother’s Reckoning

A mother’s Reckoning: Living in the aftermath of tragedy by Sue Klebold
Published: February 15th 2016 by Crown
Genre: Nonfiction, memoir, biography, true crime
Pages: 336

A mothers reckoning

“To all who feel alone, hopeless, and desperate – even in the arms of those who love them.”

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot and killed twelve students and a teacher at Columbine High School before taking their own lives. We all remember it, it shook the world, the worst school shooting in history. Sue Klebold was Dylan’s mother and she tells the heartbreaking and very important story of the time before and the time after that dark day of april 20, 1999.

“The man who kills a man kills a man / The man who kills himself kills all men. / As far as he is concerned, he wipes out the world.”

I am sure there are people that blame the parents when kids do bad things, but I am not one of those people. So I step into the story with great sympathy and understanding. Not only did they lose their child, but they were unable to properly mourn their loss because their child did something so horrible it spread a net of hatred. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to be the ones left behind to face the blame and judgement of the world.

Throughout the book, Mrs Klebold treads carefully and respectfully as she steps out of the story to guardedly explain what she is saying to be certain that respect is given to the families of the victims. I understand that this is necessary and it is very sensitive and it magnifies the issue of how incredibly difficult it must be to write this book and tell these stories. Every step is a potential landmine, and yet she manages to get through with grace.

“I would say that every one of us has the capacity to be good and the capacity to make poor choices. If you love someone, you have to love both the good and bad in them.”

Mrs Klebold examines Dylan’s childhood, and looks for answers in every little sign, signs we would never think to look at if we didn’t already know. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say. But depression wears so many different faces and masks, it seems impossible to recognize. You can’t help but feel the helpless love and anger of “if only”. We want to make sense of tragedy. And we want to learn and make sure it doesn’t happen again. We want answers. But sometimes there just aren’t any, and we’ll never get the answers we seek. 

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart.”

Mrs Klebold writes well and she has done a lot of research on the topic of depression in children, research that I truly believe is invaluable to every parent. Suicide is the third largest cause of death from the ages 10-14 and the second largest cause of death in the ages 15-34, and these are deaths that can be prevented. (I find it difficult to even wrap my head around a 10 year old committing suicide.)

We need to get better at reading the signs, not only for our children and the people around us, but for ourselves. We need to recognize a downward spiral within ourself so we can get help before it’s too late. And we need to remove the stigma of mental health and just treat it like we would a broken leg. We wouldn’t just hop around on a broken leg and not do anything about it would we? Then why would we walk around feeling broken inside and not seek to fix it?

“Every one of us has the capacity to suffer in this way, and most of use – at some point in our lives – will.”

A friend of mine was asked if she had ever been depressed or contemplated suicide, and she refused to answer as she said “If I say yes, you’ll think of me as crazy and still if I say no, you’ll think I’ve never been a teenager.” So is it part of our young nature to question our existentialism? Where should the lines be drawn between the average hormonal teenager and the severely depressed one? Will there ever be an answer to that?

“If you’re going through hell, keep going. – Winston Churchill”