A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy

Author: Sue Klebold
Year: 2016
Publisher: Crown Publishers
Goodreads Rating:
Content Warnings: School Shooting, violence, suicide
Purchased or Received Copy: Purchased for Myself

The events of April 20th, 1999 changed the world forever. It’s difficult to tell if Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris had any idea of the ripples that would spread forward from their massacre at Columbine High School. They took their own lives that day, but they would leave behind people that would remember them. Sue Klebold is one of those people.

Sue Klebold is currently a suicide prevention activist, her grief over her son Dylan’s actions and suicide pushing her forward. She doesn’t for a second intend to excuse or minimize her son’s actions in her 2016 memoir. In A Mother’s Reckoning she looks back at the days, weeks, months, and years that followed April 20th, 1999. From her overwhelming grief in Columbine’s immediate aftermath to her later activism, Sue Klebold gives the reader a look at just what it is like to be the mother of one of the Columbine shooters.

For anyone not familiar with the massacre at Columbine High, it was a school shooting in Littleton, Colorado in 1999. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris planned to use homemade explosives during lunchtime, but when those failed to detonate they went in with guns, killing thirteen before taking their own lives.

Before reading A Mother’s Reckoning, I admittedly knew very little about Dylan Klebold. In fact, I knew two things: He was one of the people that did Columbine, and his mom had a pretty interesting TED talk. I learned a bit more about him through this book, though I don’t think I understand the Columbine tragedy any more than I did before. But I think it’s difficult, if not impossible, to truly understand a tragedy like that.

I won’t like, this was an incredibly difficult book to read. I read it, on and off, over the course of almost a week despite its circa 250 page length. It’s difficult to read about Dylan’s descent into both suicidality and homicidality. It’s difficult to imagine the shock and pain that his mother felt and described. A Mother’s Reckoning falls into a unique genre of book that I find beyond fascinating: memoirs of people related to perpartators of infamous tragedies. I previously read A Father’s Story by Lionel Dahmer. I feel about this book largely the same way that I felt about that one. It’s an incredibly vulnerable and visceral story from someone that has her share of regrets. However one may feel about Sue Klebold’s parenting prior to the shooting, it can’t be ignored that she takes effort to this day to prevent as many tragedies from happening as she can. She believes that if she had prevented her son’s suicide, she would have prevented the murders that went along with it.

Overall, I enjoyed A Mother’s Reckoning, even if it was incredibly difficult to get through. For people interested in true crime or psychology it offers a first-hand glimpse into the red flags that someone can miss before a tragic mental health crisis.

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