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Before and After by Rosellen Brown

Before and After (original 1992; edition 1992)

by Rosellen Brown

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309436,089 (3.53)8
Title:Before and After
Authors:Rosellen Brown
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (1992), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 354 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:book club

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Before and After by Rosellen Brown (1992)

Recently added byprivate library, BKPugh, debicakes77, villagegtown, Anne_Booth, eurekajim
  1. 20
    We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Both of these novels tell haunting, harrowing stories about the family relationships of teenage boys who commit unthinkable crimes: in 'We need to talk about Kevin' a school shooting, and in 'Before and after' a teenager's murder of his girlfriend.… (more)
  2. 10
    Defending Jacob by William Landay (amyblue)
    amyblue: Both deal with the situation of parents whose child is accused of murder. Defending Jacob deals more in depth with the legal concepts involved.
  3. 00
    Fragile by Lisa Unger (amyblue)
  4. 00
    Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult (amyblue)

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[S]crew what really happened! What’s it going to take for you to get this? ‘The truth’ in a courtroom is just a construction of effects. It’s theater. There is no such thing as simple truth, as long as its presentation can be shaped, or perverted, or invented, even. Not the facts, mind you. I’m talking presentation. Either side can skew the way things appear, and how they appear is all that matters.”

[Before and After], by Rosellen Brown, is not about what really happened. But life is rarely about what really happened. What really happened, the event that creates the plot of the book, is in doubt until the closing section of the book. What Brown focuses on throughout the story is how everyone is affected – the lives of the characters [Before and After].

Rosellen Brown captures this transformation vividly through the eyes of three people – the mother, father, and sister of an accused murderer, Jacob, an otherwise typically rebellious and angry American teenager. Carolyn, Jacob’s mother and a doctor in their small town, is the first to feel the ugly caress of violence when she is summoned to the Emergency Room to attend the body of a teen-aged girl who was brutally and fatally beaten. The girls head is caved in and her, her sad, lifeless body is laid out on a gurney. There are few things more offensive than the view of a human body so recently departed of its quickening force, its soul, if you believe in such a thing. No matter the severity of the wounds – they can be gruesome or invisible altogether – there is a shameful absurdity in looking at what was recently a breathing, thinking, and feeling human and is now nothing more than a sack of meat. Carolyn, without knowing about Jacob’s involvement, views the victim’s body and detaches herself from the emotion of it, a luxury she soon loses. Jacob’s father, Ben, a sculptor and angry man himself, next feels the transformative genius of violence, finding in the trunk of Jacob’s car a jack covered in blood and hair. Ben embraces the emotion of the discovery, protecting Jacob, who he assumes is guilty, by hiding and destroying the evidence. Finally, Judith, Jacob’s younger sister, an almost forgotten casualty of the crime, realizes that the behavior she found frightening in her brother might be the tip of a much more disturbing iceberg.

Superman, one of America’s oldest and most iconic superheroes, fights for “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” That belief in a satisfying and rehabilitative closure in seeing bad men brought law in justice, while appealing, is a whole-cloth myth. The courts are full to bursting with the wronged and the evil, the innocent and the culpable. What so few people understand is that there is little justice and even less truth once you push through the over-sized wooden doors of a courtroom. What resides there is made up of what people can be made to believe, what people are willing to believe, or what people want to believe – not what can be proven. What does it matter if proof exists but no one can be convinced of its validity and worth?

This construct, the very bedrock of our system of justice, bleeds into everyday life. Victims and accused find that their lives outside those cruel doors have the same surreal quality. Family, life-long friends, casual acquaintances, and even strangers treat them differently, whether they are the ones who suffered the crime or are accused of committing it – they are perceived differently by everyone once they are caught in the net of violence. Perception has shifted, in their minds and all around them. And it will never retrieve the same angle as it had before.

What makes Brown’s examination of this transformation in Jacob’s family so evocative is that she writes about it from their own personal perspective rather than from a neutral, all-knowing narrator’s perspective. Carolyn views the events through her detached and impersonal doctor’s eyes, and her narrative is the coldest, but appropriately so. Ben, immediately awash in every emotion that surfaces, is the most vital, and Brown tells it from the first-person, as though Ben was sitting next to you, relaying the events of a few hours or minutes past. And Judith, tells her story almost as she might in a diary, chronicling the personal events of her days as she sees them, forgotten by her family and left to process everything without the necessary experience that a few more years of life would give her.

Bottom Line: A realistic and personal look at the loss of innocence at the hands of justice – much more provocative than a mystery for its perspective.

4 1/2 bones!!!!! ( )
8 vote blackdogbooks | May 29, 2013 |
  cavlibrary | May 29, 2013 |
The impact on a family when their teenage son is accused of bludgeoning to death his girlfriend.
1 vote phyllis.shepherd | Jul 27, 2009 |
Certainly compelling, but ultimately there was no satisfactory ending - more of the same "there is no real meaning to life". ( )
1 vote tjsjohanna | Jul 9, 2007 |
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"Se joka ei rakasta liikaa ei rakasta tarpeeksi."

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Rakkaille New Hampshiren ystävilleni
jotka ovat pitäneet minulle paikkaa takkatuliensa ja
pöytiensä ääressä
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Pikkupoika hymyilee leveästi, aurinko häikäisee hänen silmiään niin että hän näyttää itkevän.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312424418, Paperback)

The New York Times Bestseller

A New York Times Notable Book

Carolyn and Ben Reiser moved to Hyland, New Hampshire with their two children for the comforts of rural life. But when the local police chief comes looking for their seventeen-year-old son Jacob to question him about the brutal murder of his girlfriend, the Reisers' lives begin to unravel.

A compelling story that will capture you in the opening scene and hold you through its shocking conclusion, Before and After is a stunning novel that pits parent against parent, brother against sister, family against community, blood loyalty against law-as "deep questions of loyalty, honesty, and love are forced to the surface in this psychologically riveting tale." (Library Journal)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:51 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

When a young girl is found dead, the only suspect is the teenage son of a respected local family which faces the dilemma to risk everything for his innocence, or protect him from his possible guilt.

(summary from another edition)

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