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Before and After    by Rosellen Brown order for
Before and After
by Rosellen Brown
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2005 (1992)
Hardcover, Softcover, Audio

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* *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

Carolyn and Ben Reiser are married with two children, teen Jacob and twelve-year-old Judith. Carolyn is a pediatrician and Ben is an artist and a stay-at-home dad. The Reisers moved to the small town of Hyland, New Hampshire, to seek the comforts and safety of a somewhat removed, rural life. Little do the Reisers anticipate that Jacob will cause them to experience sheer hell and a torment they would never expect to experience in their lives, much less so in Hyland.

The story begins when Carolyn is called to the ER during her work shift to view the body of a teenage girl whose head is 'crushed in like a beer can.' Understandably, Carolyn is shocked and feels sick over the girl's death, remembering Martha from Jacob's grade school years. What Carolyn does not know is that Jacob and Martha were spending time together during as teenagers. When Carolyn returns home from work, the local police chief knocks on their door - not a social call. The lives of the Reisers quickly unravel as an investigation ensues and seventeen-year-old Jacob becomes the prime suspect. Carolyn's instincts are to answer the police chief's questions, while Ben is more of a renegade and a hothead which leads to many instances of face-offs between Carolyn and Ben, as well as the law against the Reisers as a family unit.

Before and After is an engrossing, provocative read that focuses as much on the impact of the murder on the Reisers as a family unit, as on the investigation itself. The story alternates chapter-by-chapter between the points of view of Carolyn, Ben and Judith - it was interesting reading from the different perspectives of Jacob's mother, father and sibling. Life in the small New Hampshire town becomes increasingly less idyllic and comfortable for the Reisers as the community inevitably hardens against them, and overall questions of loyalty, honesty and love bubble to the surface in this psychological, literary thriller.

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