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Publisher's Summary

For 10 summers, the extended Seton family met at their country home in New Hampshire to spend a week together playing tennis, badminton, and golf, and drinking gin and tonic on the homestead porch to celebrate the end of the season. But during the 11th summer, everything changes. A hidden, partially loaded hunting rifle winds up in exactly the wrong hands at precisely the wrong time, leading to an inadvertent but terrible accident that tests the values uniting the family and the convictions that might pull it apart.

Rich with unforgettable characters and great depth of feeling, Before You Know Kindness also adds a warmly human dimension to some of the most controversial issues of our time.

©2004 Chris Bohjalian (P)2004 Books on Tape

Critic Reviews

"Few writers can manipulate a plot with Bohjalian's grace and power." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Bohjalian's elegant, refined writing makes even the most ordinary details of family life fascinating, and his characters leap off the pages as very real, flawed, but completely sympathetic human beings....A triumph." (Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    41
  • 4 Stars
    53
  • 3 Stars
    37
  • 2 Stars
    11
  • 1 Stars
    8

Performance

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    32
  • 4 Stars
    27
  • 3 Stars
    11
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    4

Story

  • 3.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    24
  • 4 Stars
    21
  • 3 Stars
    19
  • 2 Stars
    6
  • 1 Stars
    5
Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Awesome Read

This is Chris Bohjalian as his best. It's like "Midwives" and "The Law of Similars" and "Buffalo Soldier" were just a warmup. He explores numerous aspects of an issue as seen through the characters and their history, their attitudes and their (often conflicting) situations. Such writing could easily become an intellectual exercise but Bohjalian's perceptive insights and dedicated, consistent character development makes this book a joy to read. I couldn't put it down.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Laurene
  • Kingwood, TX, USA
  • 11-15-04

Give it an hour or two to get rolling...

This book started off real slow, but got better after 1 - 2 hours... I am glad I hung in there, it was pretty good. A little too much detail in some spots, but overall a great "read".

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Engrossing!

This is a very rewarding novel that tackles the issues of gun control and animal rights so deftly and from so many points of view that you'll lose yourself in the inner workings of the characters and the plot, and not realize till you've finished reading it what the book is really about. The author leads you on a detailed journey through each characters inner and outer desires and motivations, interweaving story lines and perspectives seamlessly. If you liked "Behind the Scenes at the Museum" (Kate Atkinson) and "On Beauty" (Zadie Smith) you'll probably like this too.

Much like "The Kite Runner" (Khaled Hosseini) and "A Changed Man" (Francine Proset) there is also the theme of it never being to late to find redemtion, no matter the sins (real or imagined) commited.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Dawn
  • Laguna Beach, CA, USA
  • 02-14-05

Great book, well-read and produced

This is a wonderful novel that stayed with me for a long time afterward. It lent itself (as I think all of Bohjalian's books do) to audio quite well. Bravo to audible for making an unabridged version available!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Surprisingly Mediocre

Mediocre is probably being kind... And let me say right off that I am a Chris Bohjalian fan. Midwives was a fabulous read. I enjoyed The Buffalo Soldier and The Double Bind. I was looking forward to "Before you know..." However I felt the prose was basic, the plot was linear with nothing surprising or out of the ordinary. This could easily have been told as a short story. He overused too many phrases, many times in the same paragraph. It was difficult to finish and I do not recommend it. Steer yourself to the other Bohjalian joys of reading and don't waste time with this one.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Sherrie
  • Colorado Springs, CO, United States
  • 07-18-10

Before you know boredom.......

Wow. I can't believe I spent 2 credits for this book. I should have gotten the abridged version because this book was too long by half. The characters were not well-drawn and very dull. Patrick was probably my favorite character and that was because he was a baby and didn't do anything or say anything. The author went into excruciating detail on things that I just didn't care about. I kept wanting to tell him to get on with it! I finished it because it was for a book club. Even conversations with my fellow members didn't bring much clarity to this book. I don't think there was anything to clear up, it was just boring. I do know I'll steer clear of this author from now on.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Any diet is tough

Characters had character. A Simple story with a lot of statements. I liked the very notable ending, because it left me smiling. Very good coming of age story for all ages.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

A good read, but Bohjalian has done better.

This book was so long and the beginning almost made me give up but continued.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

It couldn't finish it

Would you try another book from Chris Bohjalian and/or Susan Denaker?

I found the performance lacking. Parts of the story were so over described for no apparent reason (ok, I get it, the guy worked in a seafood restaurant - I don't need a 20 minute description of how he killed lobsters)

Has Before You Know Kindness turned you off from other books in this genre?

No

How could the performance have been better?

The narrator had no inflection in her voice. It was like listening to an old lady who doesn't know what's an important part of the story vs. what's fluff. I found the reading very aggravating

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Really disappointed. I've read several other Chris Bohjalain books and loved them.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

When Accident Meets Establishment

Hardly a page turner, rather an interesting character study of a privileged segment of our culture when a near-miss challenges comfortable assumptions and the integrity of the characters who are committed to various degrees of politically correct fanaticism.