four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
14-Jan-Feb-2005
user_rating: 
0

A-BeforeKindnessWhen precocious (and a little stoned) 12-year-old Charlotte picks up her uncle’s hunting rifle, she thinks she’s shooting a deer in her grandmother’s New Hampshire garden. Instead, she accidentally hits and cripples her father, Spencer McCullough. An avid animal rights’ activist, Spencer and his company, FERAL (Federation for Animal Liberation), use his injury to create a media circus centered on gun control and animal rights. But new rifts in Spencer’s extended family test its values, convictions, love, and capacity for forgiveness.
Shaye Areheart. 448 pages. $25. ISBN: 1400047455

Hartford Courant 4 of 5 Stars
"… it’s a penetrating, often wry and witty examination of ideals, marriage, fatherhood and the family ties that can bind, burn, or bless us. … [Bohjalian] strives to be even-handed as he makes the case for hunters and for animal rights advocates, but you can sense his exasperation with the smug self-righteousness he sees in the crusaders." Carole Goldberg

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"Bohjalian beautifully captures those dizzying moments that follow a tragedy, when disbelief and horror give way to an attempt to understand what has happened. … He examines one of the most complex issues of our time—gun ownership—through the lens of each character’s thoughts and experiences, and he pokes holes in both sides of the argument." Patricia Conover

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"He’s not afraid to write a big story filled with full-blooded characters. … Before You Know Kindness is better than anything he’s written before." Curt Schleier

Entertainment Weekly 3.5 of 5 Stars
"… [a] nifty, book-club-ready novel. … But his depiction of Spencer’s animal rights colleagues—a ruthless bunch of emotionally stunted zealots who want to exploit the tragedy for their cause—belongs in a far less nuanced novel …" Jennifer Reese

Critical Summary

Bohjalian, bestselling author of nine novels, knows how to ask the hard questions. Before You Know Kindness touches on family tension and ties, marriage, disillusionment, betrayal, animals’ rights, hunting, and gun control. Yet, Bohjalian provides no easy answers to these difficult, controversial issues. Nor do his characters—sharply drawn, intimate, and piercing. While the novel is not a polemic, Bohjalian does climb up on the soapbox every now and then to share his views. That, combined with the pat ending, diminishes the story’s power. Yet, overall, it’s a courageous tale about redemption, kindness, and the ability to leave the past behind.

Also by the Author

Midwives A Novel | Chris Bohjalian (1998): An Oprah Book Club Selection. A midwife is unable to get an expectant mother to the hospital and is forced to perform an emergency C-section when the mother dies. The baby is saved, but was the mother actually dead when the C-section was performed?