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Before You Know Kindness Audio CD – Unabridged, Audiobook

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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Books on Tape; Unabridged edition (2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1415913129
  • ISBN-13: 978-1415913123
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 6.4 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,779,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

The character development was very uneven.
Read at the Beach
The book was at least 100 pages too long, and very repetitive.
Couldn't get into or care much about the characters.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 67 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Chris Bohjalian specializes in the dissection of families in crisis. In "Midwives" and "The Buffalo Soldier," to name two of his best works, Bohjalian shows how previously happy families are brought low by the vicissitudes of life and by their own frailties. "Before You Know Kindness" (a mushy title that does not do justice to this fine book) tells the story of the Seton clan. Nan Seton is a widowed, wealthy, and endlessly energetic matriarch who spends her winters in her large apartment in Manhattan and her summers in the family home in New Hampshire. Every summer, Nan invites her son and daughter, John and Catherine, along with their spouses and children, to spend some time with her. Under Nan's direction, the family participates in an endless and dizzying round of athletic and social activities.

The book opens with a horrifying scene in which Spencer McCullough, Nan Seton's son-in-law, is accidentally shot in the shoulder, and very nearly killed. Spencer is an animal rights activist whose fanaticism on the subject is comic fodder for Bohjalian. Whether he is forcing inedible foods down his family's throats or insisting that his relatives wear plastic shoes, not leather, Spencer is unyielding in his insistence that no living thing with a parent should be a source of food or clothing for human beings. Spencer's overbearing personality and frequent absences from home have already alienated his wife, Catherine, who is ready to give up on her marriage.

After the shooting, the entire family goes into shock. This event shakes up everyone's comfortable assumptions about their lives and one another, and it forces them to reevaluate what is really important to them.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The book opens with the description of a gunshot wound. There's no mystery. We know right away that Spencer McCullough, while visiting his mother-in-law in New Hampshire with his wife and family, is accidentally shot by his 12-year old daughter, Charlotte. He doesn't die but the wound has destroyed his shoulder. He will never be able to use his arm again and it will eventually have to be amputated.

We then flash back a few days and we get to meet the family. They're upscale and, this home in New Hampshire is Nan McCullough's second home. During the winter months she lives in a sprawling Upper East Side Manhattan apartment. Her daughter Sara is married to Spencer, who is works as an animal rights activist and makes speeches around the country. To many, people including myself, he seems a bit of a nutjob because he doesn't even allow his daughter to wear leather shoes or ever visit a zoo. Also visiting their mother that week is Nan's other grown child, John, a lawyer, married to Sara, a psychologist. They have a 10-year old daughter, Willow, and a newborn baby boy. They live in Vermont, and even though they understand the animal rights issues, John has recently taken up hunting and has left a gun with a bullet in the back of his car.

How this all plays out is complicated and intriguing. The author uses a lot of words and brings out the subtleties of everyone's personality. He is especially insightful regarding the children. I understood exactly what each individual was going though, both before and after the gunshot incident. This is a book with layered personalities and layered motives. I got to know each character deeply. The experience of reading the book was like just joining in on their lives.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Rick Mitchell VINE VOICE on January 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If it were not for the Prologue, nothing concrete would have happened in this novel for the first 160 pages or so. It was a slow start to an excellent expose of people's true characters and motivations.

As one can tell by the prologue, a man is shot by his 12 year old daughter. What the prologue does not tell you is who these people are or why he was shot. Mr. Bohjalian then spends a bit too long "introducing" the characters - a brother and sister, their mother, daughters and spouses. After the episode with the gun, the novel really picks up and grabs the reader.

The conflicts are endless among the characters who are related. The author then brings in lawyers and animal rights activists who all have their agendas and want to superimpose them on the family that is quickly crumbling under the stress of the accidental (or was it) shooting.

There is no romance or chivalry in Mr. Bohjalian's characters. He strips them to their basest personalities. They therefore are not likeable, but they are thoroughly understandable. The characters as portrayed are probably the most realistic possible - do we really have nobililty and romance in our lives? Do we really have those assets when tragedy hits? We would like to think we do, but this novel hits home as the characters act, think and say what we would all probably be thinking in their place, even if we do not go through with our thoughts. For example, if you are left crippled by a stupid mistake of your brother-in-law, wouldn't you rather not speak to him than forgive and forget?

The characters are very realistically portrayed. Their emotions are brutally displayed. The only character a reader can root for is the ten year old cousin, Willow.
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More About the Author

Lincoln, Vermont's Chris Bohjalian is the critically acclaimed author of 17 books, including nine New York Times bestsellers. His work has been translated into over 25 languages and three times become movies.

His new novel, The Light in the Ruins, debuted as a New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and national Indiebound bestseller. The book is a re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet set in Tuscany at the end of the Second World War.

His epic novel of the Armenian Genocide, The Sandcastle Girls, was published in paperback in April.

His next novel, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, arrives on July 8, 2014.

His books have been chosen as Best Books of the Year by the Washington Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Hartford Courant, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Bookpage, and Salon.

His awards include the ANCA Freedom Award for his work educating Americans about the Armenian Genocide; the ANCA Arts and Letters Award for The Sandcastle Girls, as well as the Saint Mesrob Mashdots Medal; the New England Society Book Award for The Night Strangers; the New England Book Award; a Boston Public Library Literary Light; a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award; and the Anahid Literary Award. His novel, Midwives, was a number one New York Times bestseller, a selection of Oprah's Book Club, and a New England Booksellers Association Discovery pick. He is a Fellow of the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, including the Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Reader's Digest, and the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. He has been a weekly columnist in Vermont for the Burlington Free Press since February 1992.

Chris graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude from Amherst College, and lives in Vermont with his wife, the photographer Victoria Blewer, and their daughter Grace Experience.

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