Before You Know Kindness Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Before You Know Kindness

Charlotte McCullough and her cousin Willow Seton are staying at their grandmother's summer home in New Hampshire. Charlotte is 12 going on 13. She yearns to be 16 or 17 years old. Willow Seton is 10 years old and worships her older cousin. They are almost bored by the luxury of going to their Grandmother's club to swim, play tennis, or golfing. Their Grandmother, Nan Seton is a bundle of energy, if she is not playing golf at the club; she is out there mowing her lawn. She and girls have been trying hard to tend to the garden their families planted Memorial Day weekend. It is constant battle with the deer coming to nibble. Charlotte and Willow are both looking forward to their parents coming for a visit.
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John is Nan's son; his wife Sara, a therapist, and Willow's baby brother Patrick are coming from Vermont, for a long weekend. Overjoyed when he discovered they were expecting a boy, John decided he wanted to take up the sport of hunting. He dreamed of one day going hunting with his son.

    Spencer and Catherine McCullough are coming for an extended stay from Manhattan. Spencer is the publicist for the Animal Rights group, Feral. He is always off a conference, a meeting, or on television. His wife and daughter both feel ignored by him at times. Although Spencer follows a strict vegetable diet, his wife enjoys sneaking a fast food burger, and keeps hidden stashes of beef jerky close by. Catherine is also known as a flirt with many of her co-workers, and other parents. Charlotte vacillates between feeling proud of her father for the work he does, and at the same time being angry for having to wear plastic shoes, never going to a zoo, and never going into a McDonald's. She has pressed long and hard for a dog, but her parents have refused. Nevertheless, the McCulloughs have arrived for a vacation but have much tension between them.

    John, Sara, Catherine, and Spencer all have different plans and projects they want to do. Not much attention is paid to Charlotte and Willow. They ask to attend a bonfire for teens at the club. Determined to be part of the older crowd, Charlotte swipes a joint for them to share, and helps herself and Willow to some beer. Drunk and stoned, the girls stumble home with their parents and Grandmother. All the adults are so distracted by their own problems; do not question the girl's strange behavior. Once home, they start to retire for the night. The girls are still outside, when John leans out the window and asks Willow to get more diapers from the trunk of the car. He momentarily forgot that his hunting rifle was still there with a bullet jammed in. Charlotte thinks she sees a deer by the family garden, takes the gun to shoot it, and ends up shooting her father who was checking on the garden.

    Spencer's right arm is paralyzed. He missed having serious damage by inches. John is distraught over what happened and how he kept his interest in the sport a secret from Spencer. His mother is upset because the accident has torn her family apart. Charlotte and Willow are upset because the full truth that they were drunk and stoned had not been revealed. Catherine is miserable because she was ready to leave Spencer before the accident happened. Summer turns to fall and the families go back home. Spencer's organization, FERAL sees a prime opportunity for them to sue the gun manufacturer to make a statement for their cause. Spencer does not see how tormented their little girl is. However with his injury, he does manage to spend more time at home. He changes his mind about getting a dog and brings one home from the shelter.

    As the date of the lawsuit approaches, Catherine gives Spencer the ultimatum, continue and she will take their daughter and live with her mother. During an argument, the truth finally comes out. Spencer does not pursue the lawsuit. As he seeks to forgive his brother-in-law, his mother-in-law very quietly passes away. The family reconciles over the accident. The years past, the memories fade, but their bonds of love and affection grow stronger.

The review of this Book prepared by Nancy Larrabee

Chapter Analysis of Before You Know Kindness

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   thoughtful Time/era of story    -   2000+ (Present Day) Kids growing up/acting up?    -   Yes Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Age group of kid(s) in story:    -   grade school Wild kid(s)?    -   druggie culture (& crime)

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Profession/status:    -   student Age:    -   a teen Ethnicity/Nationality    -   White (American)


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   8 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Northeast City?    -   Yes Small town?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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Chris Bohjalian Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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