A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold

Genres: Non-Fiction, Biography, True Crime
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: February 15th 2016


“To the rest of the world, Dylan was a monster; but I had lost my child.”

After sixteen years Sue Klebold; mother of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold, speaks out about her experience. Klebold writes of her grief, her struggles, and most importantly her confusion. How could the little boy she knew become a man she knew so little about? How could her child take innocent lives? Klebold writes of the immense guilt she has shouldered and how anyone could be in her place. That while there were signs, most parents wouldn’t have noticed and how important it is to educate people on mental health issues to prevent tragedies in the future.

This is an extremely difficult book to read, but it is something that should be read. It is the perfect example of hindsight being 20/20. Sue Klebold dredges up her painful past to examine all the things she could have done better but was not able to because of how little she knew about the signs. Signs that most parents (despite what they say) would not notice. Klebold writes about how important it is to be vigilant for these small changes. She chronicles her past while voraciously searching for a how and a why.

It’s easy to look at the Columbine shooters as monster; what they did is certainly monstrous. It’s much harder to look at them as people. Sue Klebold manages to depict her son as she remembers him, while being careful not to excuse his crime. She acknowledges the terrible thing he did and how, even if she did the best she knew how, she feels guilt for all the lives her son took. She writes her journey from her initial denial to her grief and guilt and eventual acceptance as she finds ways to prevent future tragedies.

While at times it feels a bit repetitive with Klebold repeating that she didn’t know, she’s obviously trying to drive a point home. Children, and indeed people in general, are unknowable. If someone wants to hide something from you they will. Without knowing the small signals that hinted at Dylan’s mental decline she couldn’t realize that he was in desperate need of help. It perhaps didn’t need the 300-page length, but it contains such vital messages and poignant pain that it can be forgiven.

This is a book that clearly took an extreme amount of courage to write. It is not without issues of course. Sue Klebold clearly wants to push most of the blame on Eric Harris, and while she acknowledges what her son did she seems to have some difficulty writing about the crime in anything but clinical terms. However, it is to be expected. Despite Dylan’s terrible crime, Sue Klebold is still his mother. She acknowledges what he did, but, and I believe this is not a conscious choice, she sympathizes with him heavily. She doesn’t excuse his crimes but she cannot see her son as a monster, and this perhaps makes it a less enjoyable read for some people. It’s hard to know that he is still loved after taking so many lives.

Sue touches on several important topics and writes this book in part to show the world her son and in part to crusade for mental health. It is by no means a book anyone will find an easy read, whether it causes you grief on your own part or anger, but it’s important. It’s important that we understand how something like this could have happened in a “normal” family so that we can better prevent this in the future.

A Mother’s Reckoning will leave you emotionally drained, but also with better insight to not only the Columbine massacre but parenting in general. Enlightening.


Read this if you’re a fan of:  Columbine by Dave Cullen


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