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Before You Know Kindness
Cover of Before You Know Kindness
Before You Know Kindness
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From the bestselling author of The Flight Attendant, here is a novel that examines wildly divisive American issues like gun control and animal rights with Chris Bohjalian's trademark emotional heft and spellbinding storytelling skill.
For ten summers, the Seton family—all three generations—met at their country home in New England to spend a week together playing tennis, badminton, and golf, and savoring gin and tonics on the wraparound porch to celebrate the end of the season. In the eleventh summer, everything changed. A hunting rifle with a single cartridge left in the chamber wound up in exactly the wrong hands at exactly the wrong time, and led to a nightmarish accident that put to the test the values that unite the family—and the convictions that just may pull it apart.

From the bestselling author of The Flight Attendant, here is a novel that examines wildly divisive American issues like gun control and animal rights with Chris Bohjalian's trademark emotional heft and spellbinding storytelling skill.
For ten summers, the Seton family—all three generations—met at their country home in New England to spend a week together playing tennis, badminton, and golf, and savoring gin and tonics on the wraparound porch to celebrate the end of the season. In the eleventh summer, everything changed. A hunting rifle with a single cartridge left in the chamber wound up in exactly the wrong hands at exactly the wrong time, and led to a nightmarish accident that put to the test the values that unite the family—and the convictions that just may pull it apart.

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  • Chapter Two The sun was up over Washington, Lafayette, and the trio of nearby cannonball-shaped mountains that were called the Three Graces, and Nan Seton—elderly but far from frail—sat sipping her morning coffee on a chaise lounge on the Victorian house's wraparound porch. She noted how the sun was rising much later now than it had even two or three weeks ago: It was already the twenty-eighth or twenty-ninth of July (it disturbed her that she couldn't grab the precise date right now from the air), and her children would be arriving tomorrow. Friday.

    A golden retriever—old like her but not nearly so energetic—lolled near her feet on the outdoor rug.

    She had been on the porch close to half an hour and even the coffee in the stovetop percolator she had brought outside with her was cold, when she heard her granddaughters pound their way down the stairs. The older girl, Charlotte, was twelve; the younger one, Willow (a name that drove Grandmother crazy both for its absolute lack of any family resonance and its complete New Age inanity), was ten.

    The girls collapsed into the two wicker chairs near the outdoor table, opposite their grandmother and her chaise. She saw they both had sleep in their eyes and their hair wasn't brushed. They were still in their nightgowns, their feet were bare, and Charlotte was sitting in such a fashion—the sole of one foot wedged against her other leg's thigh—that her nightgown had bunched up near her waist and she was offering anyone who cared to see an altogether indelicate and (in Nan's opinion) appalling show of flesh.

    "Good morning," she said to them, trying hard to resist the urge to put down her cup and saucer and pull Charlotte's nightgown back down over her knee. "How are my two little wildflowers?"

    "Sleepy," Charlotte said, her voice already the uninterested drawl of an urban teenager.

    "You girls are up early. Any special reason?"

    "There's a bird on the roof," Charlotte said.

    "A woodpecker," Willow added, and she reached down to pet the drowsing dog.

    Nan nodded. She decided the bird must have been on the roof over the kitchen porch on the other side of the house, because otherwise she, too, would have heard him just now. "They don't normally drum this late in the season," she said to her granddaughters. "They—"

    "Trust me, we are not making this up," Charlotte said. "It sounds like there's some guy up there and he's trying to open a tin of Altoids with a machine gun." The girl had two tiny hillocks starting to emerge on her chest. Not yet breasts and not visible in this particular nightgown. But they were evident in bathing suits and T-shirts. Her eyes were the shape of perfectly symmetrical almonds, her nose was small, and her mouth was a luscious pucker at once waiflike and impudent. She lacked her mother's paralyzingly sensual red hair, but her mane was thick and dark with natural hints of henna, and it fell on her shoulders like a cape. In a few years, Charlotte would be gorgeous, an absolute knockout. For the moment, however, she was in that murky world between childhood and serious adolescence. In one light she might pass for ten; in another she might be mistaken for fourteen.

    "She didn't say we were making anything up," Willow murmured, and then she did exactly what her grandmother wanted most in the world that very moment: She reached over to her cousin from Manhattan and pulled the older girl's nightgown down over her knee so that taut and tanned twelve-year-old thigh once again was decently covered.

    "If I had a gun, I would have shot it," Charlotte grumbled, widening her eyes as she spoke because she understood...
About the Author-
  • CHRIS BOHJALIAN is the author of twenty books, including The Guest Room; Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands; The Sandcastle Girls; Skeletons at the Feast; The Double Bind; and Midwives which was a number one New York Times bestseller and a selection of Oprah's Book Club. Chris's work has been translated into more than thirty languages, and three novels have become movies (Secrets of Eden, Midwives, and Past the Bleachers). Chris lives in Vermont and can be found at www.chrisbohjalian.com or on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Litsy, and Goodreads.
Reviews-
  • The Boston Globe "Before You Know Kindness may very well be his best. . . . Masterly . . . timely [and] well-wrought."
  • The Washington Post "An irresistible read. Moving from quiet domestic drama to legal thriller."
  • The Seattle Times "A dark psychological dance of family estrangements, lies and self-righteousness . . . plenty of finely wrought characters and thought-provoking personal and political drama."
  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Extraordinary. . . . 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."
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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Chris Bohjalian
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