30 Books in 30 Days: 8.28.11

Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian

The book starts with a shooting that interrupts the peaceful New Hampshire night.  We learn that the gun was fired by an adolescent girl and that the man who was hit suffers severe damage to his arm. After this opening, Bohjalian then takes us through the days leading up to this event.  He creates an absorbing narrative grounded in the setting of Franconia Notch New Hampshire and the summer-house where several generations of a family gather one summer. Nan Seton is the matriarch of this clan, and Bohjalian does a good job of differentiating between Nan’s stern and regal ways versus those of her children and even grandchildren.  This book, is, quite simply, relaxing to read.  I lost myself in the chapters, transported to this summer setting.  When this act of violence penetrates the night, Bohjalian examines its causes and effects from the points of view of all of the family members, showing characters’ underlying fears and prejudices that color their reaction to the events.


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