Before and After A Novel

Rosellen Brown




Trade Paperback

368 Pages



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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.

Before and After is a novel that pits parent against parent, brother against sister, family against community, blood loyalty against the law—as "deep questions of loyalty, honesty, and love are forced to the surface in this psychologically riveting tale" (Library Journal).


Praise for Before and After

"Powerful . . . provocative . . . unabashed, read-until-dawn page-turner."—The New York Times Book Review

"Fierce, gripping, and painful . . . a scrupulously observed work of literary fiction."—The New York Times
"Brilliant . . . suspenseful . . . compellingly honest."—The Washington Post Book World
"Beautifully rendered . . . by the end of the book, one is torn between wanting justice to be done and caring for a life that is in danger of being wasted in the wake of a passionate crime."—The Wall Street Journal
"Riveting . . . wedding stunningly wrought prose to brilliantly observed detail, Brown takes us deeply inside her characters."—The Miami Herald
"A stunning drama . . . an absorbing tale of a family's struggle to survive the worst event of their collective lives . . . Brown does an awe-inspiring job of putting the reader into the mind of each character."—San Antonio Express-News
"Wonderfully real and detailed . . . A terrific plot, great suspense and pacing."—The Village Voice
"Brilliant . . . Few contemporary novelists can match Rosellen Brown's scrupulous and often brilliant examinations of domestic woe."—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Before and After works on one level as a suspense novel—and a superb one—and, on another, as a powerful study of one family."—San Francisco Chronicle
"Compelling . . . Ms. Brown's writing reminds us of the potential for proximity of language and emotion, and does what the very best writing can, which is to make us feel."—The Dallas Morning News
"Brown, as she showed in Civil Wars, is particularly drawn to what happens to families when a wheel comes off, when the domestic unit begins to careen and veer and ultimately crash. Here, this is her theme again, and once more she accomplishes its dreadful focus with remarkable emotional nuance and high-quality flexible prose. The Reisers, Ben and Carolyn, have two children, Jacob and Judith. Carolyn is a pediatrician, Ben a sculptor, the kids normal enough for their teen and preteen ages. They are Jews among gentile New Hampshire-ites, but are accepted and like where they live, chose it. And then the son's girlfriend is killed. And it is the son who has killed her, in a rage, then has disappeared. It is as terrible a thing for the parents as actually having Jacob be the one killed. How to know one's kid? Ben's reaction is to hide evidence, then (when Jacob is found) to hide the boy, the truth, anything: he even refuses to testify to the grand jury and eventually goes to jail for it. Carolyn—along with daughter Judith—is ripped open not only by the shame and horror but by the lying; and ultimately she finds herself in a cruel grip of conscience she can't deny—even when it means she must deny her son. The plight here—'the forfeit of ordinary life'—is so raw and impossible to finesse that half the time you're almost wincing with the pain that Brown so delicately and dramatically gives shades to. True it ultimately all feels—and this is thanks to the tactile, nervy writing Brown accomplishes throughout. A remarkable, nightmarish, often shattering novel."—Kirkus Reviews
"This fascinating novel, by the author of such critically acclaimed works as Tender Mercies and Civil Wars, concerns a family's struggle to hold itself together after a teenaged son murders his girlfriend. The story is told alternately from the viewpoint of the boy's mother, father, and sister. The story moves from initial shock and denial (our son could never have done this!) through anxiety over his disappearance and the difficulties of his capture and incarceration to the murder trial itself and finally to life 'afterwards,' when the family has had to relocate to another part of the country to avoid cruel gossip in the small New Hampshire town where these events took place. The family members are not only at odds with the community but frequently at odds with one another as well. Deep questions of loyalty, honesty, and love are forced to the surface in this psychologically riveting tale."—Library Journal
"Readers will remain immersed in Brown's gripping story . . . mesmerized by the questions she raises and by the brave, intelligent, compassionate manner in which she deals with them."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Before and After
PART ICAROLYNShe wasn't on ER, never was during the day when she had patients, but they called her in on it. She was feeling around Jennifer Foyle's neck and groin for tenderness, talking over the girl's curly head, speaking for some reason about smallpox, Jennifer's mother insisting that one of these days they'd all pay for discontinuing vaccinations--the mother rolled up her blue flowered blouse sleeve and showed off a large mark, very badly done. She speculated that AIDS might be the result of this generation's having missed their vaccinations. Maybe, Carolyn thought, she
Read the full excerpt


  • Rosellen Brown

  • Rosellen Brown is also the author of four other novels, The Autobiography of My Mother, Tender Mercies, Civil Wars, and Half a Heart; a collection of stories, Street Games; and three collections of poetry, Some Deaths in the Delta, Cora Fry, and Cora Fry's Pillow Book. She lives in Chicago.
  • Rosellen Brown Copyright Sigrid Estrada