Before You Know Kindness
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Before You Know Kindness

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3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  6,977 ratings  ·  795 reviews
For ten summers, the Seton family--all three generations--met at their country home in New England to spend a week together playing tennis, badminton, and golf, and savoring gin and tonics on the wraparound porch to celebrate the end of the season. In the eleventh summer, everything changed. A hunting rifle with a single cartridge left in the chamber wound up in exactly th...more
Hardcover, Large Print, 656 pages
Published October 5th 2004 by Random House Large Print Publishing (first published January 1st 2004)
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Jennifer
I LOVED this book. I don't know why people are saying it was slow moving. I loved the pace. It's a character piece, and the suspense is in the slow and detailed unfolding of their lives and secret thoughts. To me, this book is a lot about what people think every day, but never reveal to each other, and how that affects what they can and can't say (or do) later. And, I liked that the author took a hard stance against animal activists -- not because I have anything against them. Like most of us, I...more
Audra
I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone. The book had a slow start & I stuck with it thinking that it would get better, but it dragged on & on. The problem with the book is that you already knew what was going to happen & you think that there will be a climax but it maintains the same pace throughout. When I finished this book I was just happy it was over.
Terry
Meh. I liked "Midwives" enough to give this one a try (but mainly because I'm out of books to read, too poor to shop, and too lazy at the moment to go to the library, and this book was crammed in my nightstand from some long-ago time when someone loaned it to me). I guess what I didn't like about it is the fact that at the end of the book I sort of shrugged and said "so?"

You meet a circle of people and a tragedy occurs and then the circle of people go through the various stages of grief and...t...more
Kit
I really enjoyed Bohjalian's book "Midwives" but I just couldn't get interested in any of the characters in this book. I pushed through it, thinking it would get better, but at the end, I still didn't care about any of these people.
Jill
I am a little unsure how I feel about this book. There is a lot here: gun control issues, animal rights issues, pre-teen drug/alcohol use, multi-generational relationships, etc. I did appreciate that the initial defining moment (a twelve year old girl accidentally shoots her father) didn't go down the expected "Janie's Gotta Gun"- (apologies to Aerosmith) road but I still didn't think the book was as good as it could have been.

It seems to me that many famous authors today could use slightly str...more
Miriam
I'm just going to come out and say it: I really didn't like this book. I picked it up because I really enjoyed Bohjalian's Midwives and although I disliked The Double Bind, I thought I'd give him another chance. I think this will be my last Bohjalian book, at least for a while.



The plot was somewhat interesting and could have been salvaged if it was approached differently. But the story arc was so odd and didn't lead up to anything. There was something that resembled a climax but that came very e...more
Anastasia
I didn't really care for this book very much. I didn't mind the slow pace that much. What bothered me most was that the author failed to establish a separate and believable voice for each of his characters. Even when the reader was privy to a character's thoughts, there was no intimacy in the way the character thought of or referred to a loved one, no language/vocabulary appropriate to the character's age or personality. Perhaps the author inserted his own voice too much into each character. Any...more
Jen
Mar 29, 2008 Jen marked it as gave-up  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: male-author
I was listening to this book on audiobook and was excited about it because I loved The Double Bind so much. However, this book I didn't connect with at all. Bohjalian seemed to try to hard on the complex sentences - William Faulkner he is not. And the plot was just so convoluted. By the fifth disk I felt that I had heard the same parts of the plot at least five times, and I KNEW I couldn't have cared less about the vegetable garden. So, on the sixth disk when the disk seemed to be damaged for at...more
Rob
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carol
I read this book because my friend Heidi recommended it. The last books she recommended to me were The Hunger Games series so I was fairly sure I would enjoy reading this. Plus I really liked the book Midwives by the same author.
Yes, I did like the book and enjoyed reading it. I'm not sure I liked the way the entire plot was disclosed in the prologue of the book but the development of the story was enjoyable reading. This was a story of family and relationship which is always a winner for me....more
Candice
Mar 15, 2010 Candice rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Candice by: I like the author
This is one of my favorite books, and I was happy that our book group voted to discuss it later this week. I wanted to share this with the group, and I wanted another chance to read it. I liked it just as well the second time. I liked it for several reasons. First, it takes a complicated issue and (no, I'm not going to say it makes it simple because it doesn't) looks at it from all angles. When 12-year-old Charlotte picks up a hunting rifle from the trunk of her uncle's car and accidentally shoo...more
Rose
I am a fan of Chris Bohjalian, having read several of his books and I do plan to read him again. I have especially always liked the thoughtful treatment he gives complex and delicate issues and his skill for great character developement.

However,in Before You Know Kindness my disappointment is in the fact that it was over 400 pages long, and easily could have been pared way down to the theme's essential issues. I felt he was being repetitive many times. I also found the ending wrapped up a littl...more
Alisa
A character study, requires a patient reading (well, listening in my case) that allows the plot to develop while gaining a fairly deep understanding of each member of the Seton clan. The relationships are simple on their face, complicated by the very passions and character traits that are prized by their owners. The exploration of how individuals associate ideas together, especially between parents and children, was interesting. The underutilized relationships of adult siblings, and how their sp...more
Kellie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kim
This big fan of Bohjalian's Trans Sister Radio was not a big fan of this novel. Hence, I am unsure as to whether or not to read more by this author.
I really wanted to like the characters in this more than 400 page novel. I was hoping to relate to, or sympathize, or be intrigued by at least one of them.
I thought I might enjoy the relate to one of them who was a teacher, as so am I. If you have ever met a teacher, you know that teaching is not a profession, but really a lifestyle. Yet, we don...more
Donna
This book is really a character study of 3 generations of a family. The primary character is Spencer, an extreme animal rights activist/vegan who works for an organization called FERAL (i.e. our true life PETA). Spencer is so caught up in his activism & neglectful of his own family, he doesn't realize his wife and 12-year-old daughter are miserable. In fact, his wife is ready to leave him and he has no clue. His wife's family and her mother don't even want to be around him because of his "pr...more
Ellen
This book focuses on an extended family dealing with the aftermath of a tragic accident involving a rifle. The man who is shot, Spencer, is an animal rights activist whose dedication to his job and inflexibility regarding his vegan lifestyle are starting to wear on his wife and teenage daughter. Also involved in the story are Spencer's wife's brother and his family, who have their own problems to sort through. I enjoyed reading about the families' different ways of dealing with the tragedy and w...more
Carol
I'm writing this review so that I can remember different things about it for book club. Fellow club members, beware of spoilers. Like John, I wish I knew a damn thing about guns so I could understand what was wrong with his. Sara and Willow seemed a bit too good for me, like they were there to be microscopes more than characters. I was engrossed by the Seton family, especially Spencer, Charlotte, and Nan. Spencer is my argumentative side, the one who would ask God for a sign, see a hand come fro...more
Nina Vandewater
Wouldn't you know I'd choose the Bohjalian that reviewers here and on Amazon say is his weakest. I think there just wasn't enough here for a 413 p. book. And somehow you weren't in love with any of the characters. Not a difficult read by any means, but nevertheless, a slow go.



If you are a vegetarian or vegan or PETA member, then you might really enjoy this book since it deals with those subjects. You will read a lot about how different animals are killed - so much so that it does make one feel...more
Edwina
As in his earlier books "The Law of Similars" and "Buffalo Soldier," Chris Bohjalian creates characters struggling to remain standing and move forward under the blows life deals us randomly or otherwise. We emphathize with these intelligent, well meaning people who bicker, love, drift apart, and try to figure out how to create or sustain the conections to each other that enable us to withstand those blows. Each character is believable and all too human, and the author really creates credible chi...more
Jennifer
This book started off strong - Bohjalian is a great story teller and develops his characters so that you recognize them as people you might know. The very first scene gives you the crux of the story - a man has been shot by his 13 year old daughter while on vacation in New Hampshire. Then the first half of the book brings you to a few days prior to set up the scene and show you the different relationships and to give you a hint that everything might not be an accident. But then...the book change...more
Amy
Sep 24, 2007 Amy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
I'm on the fence on this book. The topic of gun control, animal rights, and veganism was definitely interesting, but I struggled a bit with the author's portrayal of the animal rights issue. I was struck by how a few of the characters were so one-dimensional -- practically a stereotype -- and these were, with the exception of Spencer, all people on the side of animal rights. His other characters are so well developed with both positive and negative characteristics (everyone is humanely flawed) t...more
Elizabeth K.
Some of the other reviews of this book said it is slow moving. Yes, I will agree with that but it's not meant to be a page turning thriller. You get to know each character as the story unfolds slowly and along with each character the author does a very good job of painting a good picture of the surroundings. I have a vision even now of the Seton house and grounds as well as the other locations in the book. Without giving anything away, I will simply say that I am glad I stuck with the book and f...more
Sara Johnson
I liked this book quite a bit better than the last Bohjalian novel I read (Night Strangers). As vegetarian I found the focus on an animal rights activist and his family very interesting. My biggest annoyance about it was that when he was referring to any of the child characters (especially the two girls), or having one of the adults think about the child characters, he often used "the child" or "the girl", etc. Perhaps he's done this with other books and I just haven't noticed, but it really sto...more
Debby
I liked the book overall. That said, I felt the book's length didn't really need to be so long. Kind of like being in a movie you wished had ended a half-hour ago. At times the whole militantly anti-gun, animal rights over human rights, self-righteous vegan stuff got to be a bit much - OK, you can quit preaching at me. I began to wonder if Bohjalian was vegan and wanted to get a point across and was I maybe supposed to feel even a little guilty for earing a turkey sandwich while listening to the...more
Janice
This book took me longer to get through, so far, than any other of Mr. Bohjalian's works. I liked the characters well enough, liked the family connection and well, the NH references since they were close to where I grew up. I think what got me was the FERAL arguments and the whole vegetarian vs. meat eater talk and gun control, which as stated is a very challenging topic. I felt bad for John who left his gun in his trunk quite innocently enough - and then to have your niece pick it up and shoot...more
Katie
I've read almost all of Chris Bohjalian's books and loved them -- this was no exception. Somehow I had missed this older one and a friend recommended it, so I went back & read it. Great characters, great story. Only minor drawback was that it was a bit long in the tooth at a few points.
Barbara Martin
How detrimental living a lie can be, how extremism can be self-destructive and cause blind-sightedness, and how attorneys might operate in a libelous society. The virtue of honesty was reinforced.
Erin
I so wanted to like this book because I *loved* his novel Midwives and I can see how close he comes to writing something nearly as good. But this was not it. Still engaging, but still not it.
Rachel
Before You Know Kindness is a study of characters, a slow-paced heft of a novel. It takes place largely at Nan Seton's New Hampshire home, a place where she and her grown children and their children gather every summer. Here is the main cast:

Nan herself is a vigorous woman, scheduling daily activities for her family at the club where she is a member.

Her son, John, is a lawyer who recently took up hunting near his home in Vermont.

John's wife, Sara, is a therapist and new mom (again) to Patrick, w
...more
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Chris Bohjalian is the author of seventeen books, including Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, arriving July 8, 2014 from Doubleday.

His other books include such New York Times bestsellers as The Light in the Ruins, The Sandcastle Girls, The Night Strangers, Secrets of Eden, Skeletons at the Feast, The Double Bind, Before Your Know Kindness, and Midwives.

Chris's awards include the ANCA Arts and Letters...more
More about Chris Bohjalian...
Midwives The Double Bind The Sandcastle Girls Skeletons at the Feast The Light in the Ruins

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“As Jeremy Bentham had asked about animals well over two hundred years ago, the question was not whether they could reason or talk, but could they suffer? And yet, somehow, it seemed to take more imagination for humans to identify with animal suffering than it did to conceive of space flight or cloning or nuclear fusion. Yes, she was a fanatic in the eyes of most of the country. . .Mostly, however, she just lacked patience for people who wouldn't accept her belief that humans inflicted needless agony on the animals around them, and they did so in numbers that were absolutely staggering.” 10 likes
“Sara knew that behind its locked front door no home was routine. Not the house of her childhood, not the apartment of her husband's. not the world they were building together with Willow and Patrick. All households had their mysteries, their particular forms of dysfunction.” 6 likes
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