Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Before You Know Kindness” as Want to Read:
Before You Know Kindness
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Before You Know Kindness

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  10,805 ratings  ·  1,136 reviews
Chris Bohjalian, bestselling author of Midwives, presents his most ambitious and multi-layered novel to date--examining wildly divisive issues in today’s America with his trademark emotional heft and spellbinding storytelling skill. On a balmy July night in New Hampshire a shot rings out in a garden, and a man falls to the ground, terribly wounded. The wounded man is Spenc ...more
Paperback, First Vintage Contemporaries Edition, 429 pages
Published August 2005 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2004)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.47  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,805 ratings  ·  1,136 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Before You Know Kindness
Jun 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 05, 2007 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
Martie Nees Record
Oct 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Genre: Domestic Drama
Publisher: Random House
Pub. Date: Aug. 9, 2005

Chris Bohjalian is one of my all-time favorite authors. However, this is not my favorite Bohjalian novel. Actually, it is probably my least favorite. “Kindness” is a character-driven novel about the importance of family. Later I will get to what I didn’t like about the story. I did enjoy the well-developed characters. The novel centers on a 70-year-old grandmother, her two grown children, her children’s spouses, and her grandchi
Feb 20, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Aug 16, 2007 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Jul 07, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
This was mainly an author's attempt to turn a personal held political statement into a novel – a wordy, boring, tedious, over-long novel. His personal rants became invasive after about 100 pages and this was a 400 page book! I read for another 125 pages and could not take it any longer. I don't mind reading other people's points of view (even though different than mine) but not when pretending to be fiction and not shoved forcefully down my throat with a sharp stick. ...more
Jan 14, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, 2008
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
Jul 31, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 18, 2007 marked it as gave-up
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
Oct 15, 2009 rated it liked it
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
May 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 21, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sara Johnson
Feb 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Kate S
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned, favorites, 2015, crixus
This is the book I knew Bohjalian had written. I enjoy his style. I like his writing and his voice. I do not always like his subject matter. This look at a family as they each address a traumatic event was fabulous. I did not always like the characters, but I did find them mostly believable. The ending may have been a little rushed, but I felt the impulsiveness and misguided beliefs of a 12 year old made it more understandable. I am so glad I picked this book up at a library sale and was able to ...more
Jan 24, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Aug 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
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
LynnDee (LynnDee's Library)
I really enjoy Chris Bohjalian as a writer, and I did not find any faults with his writing in this novel. He's very good at writing character novels, and letting the reader inside the mind of each character involved in the plot. With this novel, it was almost too much. While character novels with multiple perspectives are pretty much my favorite type of novel format, this one had almost too many character insights/perspectives. I appreciated getting the perspective of the main players, but I did ...more
Aug 07, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: not-for-me
Usually I enjoy Chris Bohjalian’s books. He writes very different types of stories that have captured me. But I give up on this one. It is so slow moving. I don’t see where it is going and after halfway, I don’t really care. So I’m giving up, and hope his next book I read is more like the others in a good reading experience.
Sep 25, 2008 rated it liked it
No matter how many Chris Bohjalian books I read, he always seems to have more. Like his most famous book, Midwives, this one concerns a single tragic incident (here the shooting of a father by his own daughter), and then builds a story around the question of intent (did the daughter shoot her father accidentally or did she knowingly pull the trigger?). The question is never definitively answered, but the way each character in the book decides to view the situation affects their interactions with ...more
Jul 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 "preach ...more
Jun 15, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Family first in this case, the head of the household has been eagerly packing for a much needed getaway from his corporate job. This time he will make nice with everyone, despite the anxiety his has over their omnivore diet. His pet peeve is use of all animal products and the eldest daughter goes along for the ride, until one of her favorite handbags gets the boot along with all other animal bi-products.
The turning point - His youngest daughter is not so inclined to use the same principles as t
Feb 14, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009
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
Mar 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Kris - My Novelesque Life
Nov 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
"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 the wrong hands at exactly the wrong time, and led to a nightmarish accident that put to the test the values that unite the fami ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Midwives: A Novel by Chris Bohjalian Summary & Study Guide
  • Debbie Doesn't Do It Anymore
  • Lost in the Forest
  • The Book of Two Ways
  • This Time Next Year We'll Be Laughing
  • The Lampshade: A Holocaust Detective Story from Buchenwald to New Orleans
  • The Wolf Connection: What Wolves Can Teach Us About Being Human
  • The Cold Way Home (Bell Elkins, #8)
  • Break Your Glass Slippers (You Are Your Own Fairy Tale, #1)
  • Don't Turn Around
  • Healing After the Loss of Your Mother: A Grief & Comfort Manual
  • Offline (Hanne Wilhelmsen, #9)
  • The End of Her
  • Blue Water
  • There Are No Guilty People
  • Kreutzer Sonata and Family Happiness
  • Eleanor and Abel
  • The Witch Tree Symbol (Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, #33)
See similar books…
Chris Bohjalian is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of 21 books. His work has been translated into 35 languages and three times become movies.

His forthcoming novel, "Hour of the Witch," arrives on April 20, 2021. It's a novel of historical suspense set in 1662 Boston, a tale of the first divorce in North America for domestic violence -- and a subsequent witch trial.

His most recent novel, “

Related Articles

Need another excuse to treat yourself to new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our list,...
30 likes · 21 comments
“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.” 22 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.” 9 likes
More quotes…