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Before and After by Rosellen Brown


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Rosellen Brown’s long-awaited novel is the extraordinary story of a family’s struggle to survive the throes of tragedy. Set in the small town of Hyland, Before and After centers on Carolyn and Ben Reiser and their two children, Judith and Jacob, who have moved to New England for the comforts of rural life. Carolyn is a pediatrician who devotes her time and energy to making young lives painless and healthy. Ben is a sculptor whose imagination works overtime, yielding strange creatures of benevolent, almost totemic significance. Jacob is their seventeen-year-old son, whose shyness conceals darker impulses he keeps hidden from his parents. And Judith is his unforgettable sister, puzzled by her brother’s secrecy and sexual preoccupations, suspicious of his suppressed anger.

When the chief of police comes looking for Jacob one evening to question him about the bludgeoning to death of his teenage girlfriend, the Reisers’ lives are changed forever. Before and After is the compelling drama of the search for Jacob, his capture, and the chain of events set in motion by a brutal crime of passion. It’s a story that pits parent against parent, brother against sister, family against community, blood loyalty against the law. With a flawless ear for dialogue and a profound understanding of character and motive, Rosellen Brown has given us a heart-wrenching novel that questions the very nature of violence in our society and our ability to ever really know our children. Beautifully written, compassionate and wise, Before and After confirms Rosellen Brown’s reputation as a writer who “can do anything with language. She can engender and render five emotions simultaneously, and throw over a whole novel a skein of sureness and sympathy”. (CYNTHIA OZICK)

Before and After by Rosellen Brown

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2005)




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