A mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of a Tragedy REVIEW

Title: A mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of a Tragedy

Author: Sue Klebold

Genre:  Biography Memoir, Nonfiction

Publisher: Random House Audio



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 recognize 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 organizations focusing on mental health issues.


My Review:


This is a hard book for me to review and I have a feeling that it’s gonna be my longest because of all the thoughts I feel the need to express. I’m so sorry but I need to say how I found out about Columbine so if you get bored at some point feel free to scan the review.

On April 20th, 1999 I was a sixteen year old junior living in Guatemala City, it was a Tuesday and that meant I got out of school at 04:00 p.m. At that time, technology in Guatemala was well behind: we didn’t have Internet in schools and at home we had dialed-up internet access so those of us privileged enough to have it used the house phone for internet and that meant we weren’t allowed to use it unless it was for homework and for very short amount of time. That day I got home and since I had already finished my homework (yes I was the kind of girl that did it in between classes, on the bus or the weekend before), I turned on the TV and started flipping through the channels for something to watch on cable; the news channel caught my attention so I kept on watching the horror unfolding before my eyes… and that’s how I found out about the shooting.

I can’t put my finger on what was it exactly that caught my attention so much but from that day on, I started doing as much research about it as I could, I even did a speech about it for my English final. Eventually I lost track of it but always wondered how Dylan and Erick’s parents were coping and was always horrified and ached for all the families involved in every shooting that took place since.

Fast forward to 2016, when Sue Klebold spoke to Diane Sawyer during the special edition of “20/20” I just knew I had to read this book, especially because I have two kids and it is imperative for me to have as much info as possible on what to keep an eye out for. I was hoping to get something good out of it.

First, I want to state that it makes sense to me that in the years that followed, Sue Klebold found herself plunged into depression and denial: of course she was, I think I’d be too if it was me. How come the beloved kid I raised with all my heart turned out to be this way?

In the first few chapters she throws us into those dark feelings without a lifejacket… and what to say about that chapter when we get to hear in her own voice (an audiobook in my case) the description on the police report, step by step we find out how all those kids were killed. OMG that was some serious hope smashing done by the police and every mom’s worst nightmare: having to accept that HE DID harm all those people!

I think all the signs she describes are pieces in a puzzle called “the big picture” and sometimes as parents, we have trouble seeing it or just don’t have all the pieces we need to put together: maybe Tom and Sue should’ve been pushier when Dylan’s teacher talked to them about his paper, maybe the teacher should’ve dug deeper with said paper, maybe the police should’ve done something about Brooks parents’ complaints against Eric or they should’ve gone to the parents too, maybe the boys shouldn’t have been discharged early from the program by the probation officer, maybe the school should’ve kept an eye out for bullies, and we could go on and on… My point is, if we follow this bread crumb trail aren’t we able to notice something is happening? Maybe, maybe not. Dylan and Eric were victims too, they were victims of everybody around them not noticing they were screaming for help and there are lots of people involved that will have to live with this questions, not only their parents: Could I have done something differently? So in my opinion, they did deserve crosses (maybe I’d feel differently if it was one of my kids who was killed but also I hope I wouldn’t).

I don’t think she disregards the victims’ families’ pain in any way, it’s just a different approach. What I think she wanted to achieve with this book is to raise awareness that we are all different, just because they’re kids it doesn’t mean that they are not entitled to have negative thoughts, to suffer from depression, to have fragile feelings, to cope differently than other kids their own age and we shouldn’t underestimate anything. Mental health or brain health, as she calls it, is nothing to be ashamed of and it is completely natural to seek help but we have placed such a social stigma on it like “only crazy or weak people” seeks help that it’s seen as a negative thing to do.

I love that all profits from this book will be donated to research.

The Negatives:

I’m not sure if they’re negatives at all or just part of my tangled thoughts but here it goes:

  1. Somehow I feel as a bit judgmental on her part to keep saying that Eric was a bad influence and how he shot more people. I don’t think she is making excuses for Dylan but merely making it clear that Dylan had a condition and that the whole situation could’ve been prevented with the appropriated treatment; but still, I think it’s tactless especially if the Harris’s read the book.
  2. Sometimes the book felt repetitive and we hear (audiobook, in my case) again and again how she and Tom didn’t notice anything, how they thought Dylan was a normal teenager, how they thought they were a normal family, how they thought both their sons were good kids… and I think they were! My parents and I were like that too and my husband, kids and I are like that too: we teach values, we attend church, value our time together as a family, we don’t own guns, etc. Of course she’s repeating herself and I feel it’s because she feels the need to impress upon us that we may feel normal but sometimes somehow something goes wrong and still we don’t notice it.

My Conclusion:

As a mom, I used to think that we had a sixth sense and we’re supposed to know if something’s not right… I don’t think that’s accurate anymore.

I get from this book that there is no “normal” teenage behavior and that we need to keep an open channel of communication between kids, parents, family, friends’ parents and school so we can all help each other.

We desperately need to provide kids with healthy tools to cope with some situations without resorting to this kind of thing. I don´t know but maybe some kids are born more fragile and therefore are more easily hurt and have more difficulty coping but this is only my opinion.

BookDepository Link


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