Friday, May 18, 2007

"You learn to compromise when you're down to one arm"

Before You Know Kindness is the first novel i have read by Chris Bohjalian and it has left me longing for more. I would not be giving away anything to tell you that it is about the accidental shooting of animal rights' activist Spencer McCullough by his twelve year old daughter Charlotte, as the prologue begins with two EMTs rushing to the scene and tending to his gushing shoulder wound, speculating how he will probably never regain the use of his right arm and wondering how such an event could transpire. We are then taken back days to learn how.
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
~Naomi Shihab Nye, "Kindness"
The events of the novel take place mostly across a few July weeks at the summer home of the Seton clan headed by a very athletic, energetic matriarch named Nan. Her son John is married to a former wild-child/hippy turned therapist named Sara and together they have a rather precocious ten year old daughter, Willow and
a five month year old son, Patrick. Then there is John's sister Catherine who is married to the afore mentioned Spencer with their verging-on-the-obnoxious (or not so much verging on) teen-years daughter, Charlotte.
Spencer is the Marketing Director for a group called FERAL an extremist animal rights organization and is a rather uptight proselytizing vegan. John has recently taken up hunting in anticipation of father/son bonding (although he has kept this secret from Spencer). Spencer has made a family project of starting a vegetable garden at the New Hampshire homestead to provide summer sustenance for the family. The deer come to feast...
it all makes for wonderful family drama, and i think all sides are drawn with equal shades of intolerance and/or tolerance

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