The Fictioning
 
 

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to PowellsBooks.news
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Tour our stores


    Recently Viewed clear list


    Original Essays | September 30, 2014

    Brian Doyle: IMG The Rude Burl of Our Masks



    One day when I was 12 years old and setting off on my newspaper route after school my mom said will you stop at the doctor's and pick up something... Continue »

    spacer
Qualifying orders ship free.
$1.50
List price: $14.95
Used Trade Paper
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
Qty Store Section
2 Local Warehouse Literature- A to Z

This title in other editions

Before You Know Kindness

by

Before You Know Kindness Cover

ISBN13: 9781400031658
ISBN10: 1400031656
Condition: Standard
All Product Details

Only 2 left in stock at $1.50!

 

 

Reading Group Guide

1. Before You Know Kindness opens with a blunt, clinical description of Spencers injuries. Is the preface a purely objective report or does it begin to develop some of the general themes of the novel? What does it convey about the Setons and their way of life?

2. Spencers speech pp. 16-19 and Nans descriptions of his behavior pp. 27-29 offer varying insights into his personality. Does the tone of the writing influence your impressions of him? What specific details bring out the differences between Spencers self-perceptions and the way others might view him?

3. How does Bohjalian portray FERAL and the people who work there? Do you think this is an accurate portrait of the animal-rights movement? What reasons might Bohjalian have for distorting their attitudes and activities?

4. Sara thinks, “The problem with Nan-and with John and Catherine, and yes, Spencer when they were all together-was that they could never just . . . be.” [p. 38] In what ways is this attributable to Nan and Richard Setons marriage and the atmosphere in which John and Catherine grew up? Why does Spencer, whose background is so different, demonstrate the same quality?

5. How persuasive are Johns explanations of why he took up hunting? What does the argument that hunting “is the most merciful way humans had to manage the herd” [p. 73] imply about the relationship between humans and the natural world? Does Johns anguish after the accident alter his view of hunting in general? Do you think that it should?

6. In talking to Willow about Catherine and Spencer, Charlotte says, “Sometimes I get pissed at both of them. I dont think Mom would be the way she is if Dad wasnt this public wacko.” [p. 117] Are Charlottes complaints typical of a teen-ager or does Spencers profession put an unusual burden on her? Is her criticism of her mothers flirting well-founded?

7. Bohjalian suggests several times that Charlotte may have subconsciously wanted to injure her father. She herself says, “There were lots of reasons for pointing Uncle Johns weapon at what was moving at the edge of the garden. . . . ” [p. 133] and acknowledges that others might think, “She was just doing it to get your attention. . . . ”[p. 135] Is this speculation supported by the way Bohjalian describes the accident? By Charlottes subsequent behavior and her conversations with Willow?

8. The accident and Spencers permanent disability provide FERAL with an irresistible opportunity to make their case against hunting. Is their decision to bring a lawsuit totally reprehensible? Do the depictions of Dominique, Paige, and Keenan undermine the validity of their case?

9. Self-interest plays a part not only in FERALs reaction to the tragedy. Are you sympathetic to Johns concerns that the lawsuit will effect his professional reputation, as well as his fear that “for as long as he lived he would be an imbecile in the eyes of his daughter” [p. 142]? How did you feel as Catherine vacillates in the second half of the novel between wanting to help her husband and wanting to leave him?

10. “Nan was a particular mystery to [Sara]. Exactly what was it that she didnt want to think about?”[p. 176] Were you puzzled by Nan as well? By the end of the novel, did you feel you had a better understanding of her?

11. What would have happened if Charlotte and Willow had not confessed to drinking and smoking pot on the night of the shooting? Were you relieved that Spencer decided not to pursue the lawsuit?

12. Although the plot revolves around Spencer, at various point in the novel each character moves to center stage to comment on the events and their repercussions. Which members of the family most appealed to you and why? How successful is Bohjalian at capturing their individual points of view and personalities? Did your opinions of them change as the novel progressed?

13. Does Bohjalian present both sides of the controversy in an evenhanded way? Which characters appear to embody his own point of view? What is the ultimate message of Before You Know Kindness?

14. Do you think that the issues Bohjalian examines in Before You Know Kindness are more important (or more relevant) than the topics he explored in (for example) Midwives or The Law of Similars or Trans-Sister Radio?

15. Why did Bohjalian use a passage from The Secret Garden as one of the epigraphs? In what ways is the childrens classic relevant to Before You Know Kindness?

16. Why did Bohjalian take his title from the poem, "Kindness," by Naomi Shihab Nye, a portion of which serves as the other epigraph?

From the Hardcover edition.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Krista Smith-Moroziuk, June 16, 2009 (view all comments by Krista Smith-Moroziuk)
Chris Bohjalian has written a great family saga. The characters and place come to life under his pen. You will not want to put it down.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(0 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
Wendy Robards, May 31, 2008 (view all comments by Wendy Robards)
The Seton and McCullough families are close…and every year they meet in New Hampshire at matriarch Nan Seton’s summer home to spend Memorial Day weekend together. Nan is in her seventies but “vigorous,” and her constant activity (whether it be swimming, golfing or mowing the lawn) drives these family reunions. But when thirteen year old Charlotte finds her Uncle John’s deer hunting rifle and discharges it into the garden on the last day of July, everything changes.

In the opening paragraphs of Chris Bohjalian’s novel Before You Know Kindness, the reader learns that Charlotte’s father, Spencer McCullough - a fanatical vegan animal rights activist - is on the receiving end of his daughter’s shot into the dark. Seriously injured with a crippling arm injury, he is forced to re-examine his life and priorities…and the repercussions of that night will reverberate throughout the family.

Bohjalian is one of my favorite writers because he is skilled at creating gripping story lines and delving deep into his characters’ psyches. In Before You Know Kindness, Bohjalian examines the cracks which lie beneath the surface of a family, and how those cracks can become deep fissures on the heels of one tragic event. Thematically, the novel explores the political argument of gun control and animal rights…and on a more personal level, deals with the ideas of secrets, narcissism, and family relationships.

As a physical therapist, I was pulled into the psychological tension of the novel which develops as a result of a physically devastating accident - how does a person deal with a life-altering disability which has the power to either strengthen or destroy relationships? All of us have the choice to be angry or forgiving in the face of tragedy - what is it that makes us chose one over the other?

Bohjalian’s prose is honest, searing and compelling. Before You Know Kindness is ultimately a story of redemption and the power of forgiveness.

Recommended.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(11 of 22 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 2 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9781400031658
Author:
Bohjalian, Chris
Publisher:
Vintage Books USA
Author:
Bohjalian, Chris A.
Author:
Chris Bohjalian
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Parent and child
Subject:
Sagas
Subject:
Hunters
Subject:
Domestic fiction
Subject:
Psychological fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Vintage Contemporaries
Publication Date:
20050831
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
448
Dimensions:
7.96x5.30x.94 in. .71 lbs.

Other books you might like

  1. The Buffalo Soldier Used Trade Paper $6.50
  2. The House of Mirth (Penguin Great... Used Trade Paper $5.50
  3. Water for Elephants Used Mass Market $1.50
  4. Midwives: A Novel Used Trade Paper $1.50
  5. The Memory Keeper's Daughter
    Used Trade Paper $2.25
  6. Kite Runner Used Trade Paper $3.95

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

Before You Know Kindness Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$1.50 In Stock
Product details 448 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9781400031658 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Bohjalian's new novel begins with a literal bang: a bullet from a hunting rifle accidentally strikes Spencer McCullough, an extreme advocate for animal rights, leaving him seriously wounded. The weapon — owned by his brother-in-law, John, and shot by his 12-year-old daughter, Charlotte — becomes the center of a lawsuit and media circus led by Spencer's employer, FERAL (Federation for Animal Liberation), a dead ringer for PETA. The many-faceted satire Bohjalian (Midwives, etc.) crafts out of these events revolves around Spencer and Jon's families, but also involves a host of secondary figures. Bohjalian excels at getting inside each character's head with shifts of diction and perspective, though he makes it difficult for readers to connect with any one in particular. This is in part because his portraits are often unsympathetic; the characters are allowed to hoist themselves on their own petards. While some are credibly flawed — Spencer is both a loving father and an obnoxious activist — others are cartoonishly mocked with their own thoughts, like high-powered attorney Paige, who mourns the loss of her leather chairs and briefcases, hidden away for as long as FERAL is a lucrative client. If there is a grounded center to this work, it is 10-year-old Willow, Spencer's niece, who distinguishes herself from this baggy ensemble by always trying to do the right thing. She alone is spared the narrator's irony, and it is Willow, years after the accident, who has the last word. Bohjalian's skewering of the animal rights movement gets the better of his domestic drama, but his skillful storytelling will engage readers. Agent, Yellow Barn Books. (Oct.) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Bohjalian's elegant, refined writing makes even the most ordinary details of family life fascinating, and his characters leap off the pages as very real, flawed, but completely sympathetic human beings....A triumph."
"Review" by , "The finely drawn scenes and characters here will suck in all but the hardest-hearted. Pretty much irresistible."
"Review" by , "Chris Bohjalian's many fans will be glad to know he's back on the high wire, expertly balancing topical issues with the more timeless concerns of the human heart. His well-drawn, sympathetic characters deepen and intensify the novel's gripping plot rather than simply serving it. Before You Know Kindness is smart, first-rate storytelling."
"Review" by , "Once again, Chris Bohjalian dares to tackle the complexities — and complacencies — of modern society at its most vulnerable spot, where the personal clashes with the political, where the private is forced to go public. And once again, he forges a drama that will keep his readers on the edge of their seats...perhaps their conscience as well."
"Review" by , "Chris Bohjalian's magnificent new novel, Before You Know Kindness, is the best work of fiction I've read about an American family since Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club. It is one of the funniest, best-written, most compassionate, most engaging, and flat-out most enjoyable novels I've ever read."
"Review" by , "Bohjalian has had much success in the past, including a selection as an Oprah Book Club author. Before You Know Kindness is better than anything he's written before."
"Review" by , "Bohjalian elegantly guides readers through a labyrinth of opposing viewpoints in a purposeful narrative that seamlessly blends the personal and the political."
"Review" by , "[A]bsorbing....Bohjalian effectively draws the reader into the inner lives of every family member, each of whom is dealing with the tragic event in his or her own unique way."
"Review" by , "Before You Know Kindness may very well be his best....Masterly...timely [and] well-wrought."
"Review" by , "An irresistible read. Moving from quiet domestic drama to legal thriller."
"Review" by , "A dark psychological dance of family estrangements, lies and self-righteousness...plenty of finely wrought characters and thought-provoking personal and political drama."
"Synopsis" by , 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 Spencer McCullough, the shot that hit him was fired?accidentally? — by his adolescent daughter Charlotte. With this shattering moment of violence, Chris Bohjalian launches the best kind of literate page-turner: suspenseful, wryly funny, and humane.

spacer
spacer
  • back to top

FOLLOW US ON...

     
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.