Before You Know Kindness
Chris Bohjalian, 2004
Chris Bohjalian 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.
Every summer the extended Setons family gathers at the family homestead in New Hampshire, where Nan Seton, age seventy, presides over what her children and grandchildren jokingly call "The Seton New England Boot Camp." The hectic schedule of golf and tennis and swimming at the club, nature hikes before dinner, and badminton on the lawn in the waning hours of daylight is disrupted one Memorial Day weekend when Nan's son-in-law, Spencer, corrals the family into planting a garden.
An avid animal-rights activist, Spencer envisions tables laden with fresh fruits and vegetables and a new appreciation on the part of his skeptical extended family of the virtues of vegetari-anism. But a horrible accident in the garden exposes deeper divides within the family and forces them all to reexamine their loyalties to one another. (Both synopses from the publisher.)
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